The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced a new duty on local authorities in England to advise, assist and support fostered young people to stay with their foster families when they reach 18, if both parties agree. This change to the law was achieved after a long campaign led by The Fostering Network, and was one of the proudest moments in the charity’s 40 year history.
Our publicity around this right to 'stay put' talked about changing the futures of generations of care leavers for the better. But three years on, how much has actually changed? Some young people have been enabled to stay with their foster families when before they would have had to leave. But we have definitely not seen the step change we were hoping – and still hope – for, with a range of cultural, financial and logistical obstacles getting in the way of making staying put a reality for all young people who want it.
The Fostering Network will continue to campaign for change to address those obstacles which require central government action, such as ensuring there is sufficient funding and a minimum staying put allowance, to ensure staying put is a realistic choice for all young people. In the meantime this guidance, developed with the support of a working group of experts from across the sector, offers practice advice on how to implement staying put within the existing legislative framework.
And at its heart, this guidance is a plea for fostering services – local authority and independent – to accept and understand that staying put is the new 'norm', and to go above and beyond to make it happen. Just as over the past 15 years there has been a shift away from expecting children to leave care at 16, we now need a sector-wide understanding that fostered young people should be able to live at home until they are 21, and a determination to make this happen.
About the guidance
This guidance is based upon the legislation, statutory guidance and standards that govern services for looked after children, care leavers, and fostering services in England.
The guidance has been informed by wider learning and from surveys conducted by The Fostering Network with young people, foster carers, local authorities and independent fostering providers in England. In addition the guidance is informed by discussions at the Staying Put Working Group, a national group convened by The Fostering Network made up of representatives from across the sector.
The guidance aims to provide a framework of best practice that will assist all parties in the implementation of staying put and seeks to guide local authorities and fostering services in developing an approach to staying put which makes it achievable for all those who choose it as their preferred means of support as they transition to adulthood. It addresses the key implementation issues which fostering providers, foster carers and young people have experienced since the introduction of the new duty in 2014 and provides good practice case studies. We are working with the Department for Education and other stakeholders to address issues which require policy or legislative change.
The three sections of the guidance
The guidance is made up of three sections. You can read all of section one, the implementation guidance, online or as a downloadable pdf. The other sections, good practice guidance and things to consider in implementation, are downloadable below.
Additionally, you can download the following flowcharts which are in the guidance:
- Planning for a staying put arrangement
- Process for children and young people on staying put arrangements
- Process for foster carers and staying put carers