Nearly three quarters of foster carers looking after young people aged over 16 expect them to stay for more than a year, with four out of ten expecting them to stay for more than three years according to The Fostering Network (TFN).
The figures represent emerging findings from TFN research set to be published later this year. It is the first evaluation of the likely impact of the new “staying put” arrangements introduced in May.
The findings were released to Community Care in response to the publication of government figures on looked-after children which showed that between April 2013 and March 2014 only 4% of care leavers remained with their former foster carers.
Jackie Sanders, director of public affairs at TFN, said the figures showed why the change in law was essential.
“It’s vital that local authorities now implement their statutory duty in England and we look forward to seeing an upturn in the number of young people staying put in years to come,” she said.
The “staying put” arrangements, brought in by the government, allow young people to be supported in foster care up until their 21st birthday.
Paul Adams, foster care consultant for the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), said he felt “cautiously optimistic the number of children staying in care for longer would be much higher in one or two years”.
“What we’re hearing is foster carers and professionals are very positive about it,” said Adams. “It’s an issue which has frustrated people for a number of years”.
Research from TFN set to be published later this year has shown nearly three quarters of foster carers looking after young people aged 16 or over expect them to stay for more than a year, with four out of ten expecting them to stay for more than three years.
Carried out after the change in the law, a spokesperson for TFN said the research was “positive news” as foster carers expect young people to stay with them as they approach 18 and beyond, taking advantage of the new staying put arrangements.
Optimism about young people in care staying on past 18 is matched by hopes for the impact this will have on other figures released in the report, which showed that 38% of care leavers aged 19-21 were not in education, employment or training.
Adams said he hoped more that more looked-after children staying with foster families after 18 would help improve these outcomes, but added: “I think it’s very difficult to try to predict how different cohorts within that group will benefit or whatever, in truth we just don’t know… there is evidence to show that a stable placement makes it more likely someone will be in education, employment or training.”