My name is Caroline and I am a foster carer in South Wales, and have been for 7 years. I currently have 3 teenagers in placement, one of whom has just turned 18. A week before her 18th birthday she was offered a flat, I went with her to look at it. It was fab. But I knew she wasn't ready to be left alone in this flat which was actually quite isolated. She would have had a mile to walk to the bus stop, with £53 a week to live on and miles away from any support.
Until this day I didn't realise how children felt about being moved on to independence.
Two days before this, I went to see another child who I had moved on 2 years ago, because I always get her an advent calendar for December 1st and went to see her. She was depressed and lonely, and had no money. Her own family were no support. The next day I did a course called “Behind the Mask” which was run by my local authority, I came from that course feeling upset, sad and guilty, because I had moved these 18 year olds on simply because I couldn't afford to keep them.
When I got home I asked the child who had been offered a flat if she wanted to go. She said no. So I got in touch with the 16 plus team and told them that the child would not be taking the flat.
She is still with me now, in a supported lodgings placement which does not cover my outgoings. Financially it's hard but my husband works, so it does help a little. However I feel useless and disappointed when it comes to supported lodgings, as the 18 year old has just been told she has to leave us in 2 weeks because she is not in education! She is 10 weeks pregnant and has no family support except for us.
It shouldn’t have to be like this. Every young person in foster care in Wales should have the right to remain with their foster carer beyond 18, and local authorities should be funded to ensure they can continue to support foster carer to continue the arrangement. We need to change the culture of expectation that 17 year olds are ready to live on their own. I urge members of the Welsh Assembly to make sure that on Tuesday they vote to get this legal right to stay, and its associated funding, enshrined in law.