It is the unspoken promise of parenthood, the deal millions make as their fledglings fly the nest: that in an emergency, they can always come fluttering back. Even if they never have to cash that unwritten cheque, just knowing it’s there can be enough to see them through the wobbly early years of independence. That place is home. It is what gives young adults the confidence to flee a toxic relationship or a dodgy flatshare, knowing they’re not going to end up on the street, or to stick it out in the kind of insecure careers where persistence ultimately pays off. But home isn’t like that for everyone, and shamefully it’s least like that for children parented by the state.
Once they turn 16 they’re no longer looked-after children, a euphemism already covering a multitude of sins, but “care leavers”. At best that means staying with a loving foster family until they’re ready to leave, but at worst it means the kind of downhill slide that explains why too many rough sleepers have previously been in care.
Almost half of care leavers have mental health issues and more than a third aren’t in education, employment or training between the ages of 19 and 21. Although the state now offers a “personal adviser” to guide them into their 20s, with the best will in the world it’s not going to be like crying on a parental shoulder.
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