Isabelle Kirkham shares her experience of growing up in foster care, emphasising corporate parents’*, pivotal role in their lives. As a child, Isabelle encountered a variety of social workers, revealing a system that, while seemingly supportive, does not always provide young people with the consistency of emotional support they need. As she transitioned to university, she was grateful for the practical and financial support her corporate parents provided. However, upon reaching the age of 25, the threshold when the local authority's legal duty to support care leavers ends, she was abruptly informed of the cessation of her support via a cold, impersonal text message.
It is generally accepted that by the age of 25, the prefrontal cortex of the brain has fully matured. However, this biological marker fails to account for the emotional and social challenges care leavers face. But does this signify those young adults, especially those emerging from the foster system, are wholly equipped to face life's challenges without continued support?
Terry Galloway, a care leaver himself, founded the Care Leaver Offer to help bridge this gap, providing a platform to compare support across different regions. But regional disparities persist, with prosperous areas like Wokingham offering a suite of benefits, while more deprived areas like Blackpool lag far behind.
Jonny Hayle, a care-experienced social worker at North Yorkshire County Council and Linda Briheim-Crookall, Head of Policy and Practice Development at Coram Voice, among others, advocate for a more comprehensive approach to support care leavers indefinitely, reflecting their unique circumstances.
In a society that focuses on equity, the journey of care leavers like Isabelle prompts introspection. As Isabelle poignantly states, the impact of care doesn't end at 25. It's a lifelong experience, and the support should reflect that.
Author: Shreya Agarwal
* Corporate Parents are institutional guardians like local authorities or organizations tasked with the well-being of children in their care