Jennifer Sarumi says the need for support does not end when a care leaver turns 18
Who exactly declared 18 as the age of adulthood? Maturity is subjective and I’ve always wondered why some social workers are blind to this. Some young people are rushed out of the care system, especially when they might be seen as too difficult to handle by carers or have displayed aggression towards them. This is unfair: a parent would not give up on their own child so easily, especially when all the hostility means the child is in need of more emotional support, not less.
Someone close to me is not far from turning 18 and has been living by himself since he was 16. He has found it difficult to keep friends, stay in education and left school without GCSEs. He also finds it hard to socialise and communicate with people. At 18, care leavers are told either to find a job or continue with education. However, for someone like my friend this kind of choice is hopeless because finding a job or carrying on with education requires stable mental health.
I believe education is a good thing and care leavers should be encouraged to continue with it but I think many children in care feel inadequate when it comes to education. Many are in a hurry to move out of foster placements and don’t realise the opportunities they may be giving up. Social workers and foster carers need to be aware of this and offer honest advice and encouragement.
Even those who do carry on and hope to go to university (such as myself) fear the possibility of being abandoned by the system, especially when things may become difficult. I worry about times I may need extra money and cannot find a job; ordinary kids can ask their parents for that type of support but children like us cannot do that. Sure, I would have to learn how to spend my money wisely but not many can be successful at this. I also fret about how lonely the holiday periods might be like. The need for support does not disappear with a birthday.
Jennifer Sarumi, 18, is a care leaver and a representative of the charity Voice
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This article is published in the 28 October 2010 edition of Community Care under the headline “Why 18 is no age to lose foster support”