What is a Care Leaver?


Care leaver definition

By definition, care leavers, or care experience young adults, are young people aged between 16-25, who have been:

  • Looked after by a foster carer for any given period since they were 14 years old


  • In care on or after their 16th birthday

However, the broader, more commonly used definition refers to any person who spent time in care as a child.

Leaving care age

The official leaving age in the UK is 18. However, children in care have the option to leave from the of age 16 or receive support until the age of 25.

Regardless of age, all care leavers are entitled to ongoing support from their local council after they leave care. A care experienced young adult may also be entitled to leaving care services if they were placed with a friend or relative under a Special Guardianship Order.

Support for care leavers

For young people who have been in the care system, leaving home and starting a life for themselves can be especially daunting. They’re likely to feel extra pressure and stress as they may not have the same family support as their peers who have not been in foster care.

At Excel Fostering, we work closely with our carers, care leavers and local authorities to ensure the transition into adulthood is as seamless and stress-free as possible. Our aim is to make our young adults feel supported and empowered to embrace their independence. But what support is available to care leavers?

Legally, all young people transitioning out of foster care are entitled to:

  • A personal advisor
  • A Pathway Plan
  • Somewhere to live and financial support (until the age of 18)
  • Stay with their foster parent(s) (until the age of 21)

Pathway Plan

Each young person in care will receive a Pathway Plan when they turn 16. These plans detail how the local authority will support the individual with their health, education, training and development, finances and contact with family. Each plan is unique, and written to accommodate the needs and aspirations of the care leaver.

Once the plan has been written, a personal adviser will be assigned to the care leaver to help with their Pathway Plan. These advisors are responsible for arranging reviews at least once every six months to ensure the plan is regularly updated and the care experienced young adult is receiving sufficient support. However, both parties can request a review at any time.

Advisors must attend Plan Pathway reviews until the care leaver is 21. However, many young adults extend this service until they reach the age of 25.

Additional care leaver support

In addition to a Pathway Plan, care leavers can also receive additional support for:

  • Educational bursaries
  • Home allowance
  • Finding work
  • Benefits

There may also be grants or charities available to some care leavers. All of these options should also be discussed with the care leaver’s adviser. Additionally, the ‘Staying Put’ program is another option which is designed for care experienced young adults who may benefit from an extended stay with their former foster family.

’Staying Put’

The ‘Staying Put’ programme allows young people in foster care to remain with their foster families after the age of 18 if both parties are able and willing. The choice to ‘stay put’ could be due to a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • Financial instability
  • Delayed maturity
  • Vulnerability
  • The care leaver needs extra time to finish their education

It’s important to note, that whilst the young person may remain with their foster family and their day-to-day routine remains the same, the staying put arrangement differs from a foster placement, as the young person is no longer considered a child in care.

Capstone Care Leavers Trust

The Capstone Care Leavers Trust offers grants to young adults leaving foster care. Providing financial funding, educational support and job opportunities is a fantastic resource for young people.

Care Leavers Association

The Care Leavers Association is a charity-led organisation designed to enrich the lives of young people leaving care. With a huge network and wealth of resources available, they actively support care leavers whilst striving to continually improve the care system.


For more information about care leavers, the Pathway Plan or the Staying Put program, get in touch with a member of our helpful team at Excel Fostering or visit the Government website. Alternatively, visit the Capstone Care Leavers Trust site for additional information about care leavers.

Thinking of fostering?

If you’ve got any questions or would like to find out more about fostering with Capstone, fill out the form below.
An experienced fostering advisor from your local area will then be in touch.

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