“I’ve been lucky” – how Staying Put makes a difference
Young people living with foster families in England often move out to live independently when they are 18. Under Staying Put, young people have the chance to stay with their foster families up to the age of 25 instead. This provides stability and support at a crucial stage in young people’s lives and gives them a wider range of opportunities, such as going to university.
With many students currently finishing their degrees, we spoke to Kanyin, a 21-year-old young person who lives with a St Christopher’s foster family. Kanyin is about to graduate from Coventry University, so she shared her experiences of how Staying Put with her foster family supported her to complete her degree and deal with the pandemic.
How long have you lived with your foster family?
For ten years, since I was 11 years old.
How would you describe your relationship with your foster carer?
I see her as my second mum. I can talk to her about anything and I feel very comfortable with her. It’s always been easy to go to her as she’s so supportive.
How would you summarise Staying Put?
Staying Put is the chance for a young person to still focus on yourself, have time to enjoy being young and to do what you really want to do. It’s instead of getting pushed into the real world too early. I feel like I’ve been lucky in that sense – I can do things like go on holiday with my friends without worrying about bills and money.
For foster carers, Staying Put is a chance for them to keep supporting a young person until they’re ready for adulthood. To me it’s basically an extension of what the whole fostering system is.
Did you always know you were going to be Staying Put?
Yeah, I did always know – me and my carer and my social worker had the conversation and agreed that Staying Put was the best option. I didn’t feel comfortable to leave yet.
What difference did it make being able to stay in fostering after you turned 18?
I felt less stressed out. I never had to think about extra bills apart from my uni ones, which I covered through student loans and my job. And it means I could go home during university holidays instead of being by myself and feeling lonely.
As a care leaver if you want to move out from your foster family AND go to university, you could have to stay in the place you’re from – otherwise you can end up paying two sets of rent, which isn’t manageable. It’s not right for a young person to face so much pressure. All that stress can make young people in care not want to go to university.
And sometimes young people and their foster carers don’t have the option for them to Stay Put, so young people have to decide between going to university or working full-time.
What support has been available for you to go to university?
On my course I was given a laptop, this was really good financially as it could be a struggle to pay for this otherwise.
My local authority provided some funding when I started university to cover rent for my uni accommodation during the holidays. My personal advisor helped to split the money in a way that best supported my needs.
How has the pandemic been for you as a university student?
The pandemic has been a bit stressful. Everything I thought was going to happen did not happen! I decided to live alone for third year so I was assuming a lot of my socialising would be outside of my accommodation, but then we weren’t allowed to meet up with people. Living on my own was very lonely and boring, especially once face-to-face lectures stopped.
I feel worse for the people who started uni for the first time in the pandemic – at least I knew what it was like to have a “proper” experience for the first couple of years!
Coming back home to London towards the end of my course was better because I didn’t feel lonely. I knew there were always other people in the house that I could spend time with.
How has your foster family helped you during the pandemic?
It was good to still able to talk to them and have them supporting me. Moving back home made life a lot easier as I was able to have proper interactions with people after living alone – although it was an adjustment from living independently and doing what I want, to going back living with my family!
What needs to change about the care system?
Everyone is different but I feel they should provide more support to care leavers. There needs to be teaching on how to budget and not just pushing someone out to be independent.
Thank you Kanyin for sharing your experiences! If you would like to learn more about becoming a foster carer, click the button below to get in touch with us.Enquire about fostering