Moving out of home as an 18-year-old teenager can be difficult at the best of times, but for a young person with care experience it can be a massive leap into the unknown. Aside from the fact that many young people find it hard to leave the foster carers who have given them the opportunity to grow through a nurturing environment, many also feel ill prepared for independent living. That’s why Affinity Fostering created our Independent Living Project aimed at preparing and educating all the young people in our care who are aged 15 and over.
Life and the ability to learn from it can be very different for young people living in care. Many of them may not have been exposed to the way that household decisions are made or how to budget and their lives may have been extremely tumultuous. Usually this means that many young people leaving the care system don’t have the knowledge or ability to practically budget, some may not have cooking or normal household skills, and many may eventually find themselves falling into debt or suffering mental health issues.
For young people living in the care system, the preparations for an independent living start around their 16th birthday where they should be assigned a personal advisor or social worker from the local authority to assist and support them through their journey to independence. Affinity Fostering believe that preparations should begin far earlier, which is why our Independent Living Project starts at 15.
Our learning sessions are always one to one enabling a young person to build a trusting relationship with their support worker and providing them with the opportunity to ask questions or get things wrong without the risk of embarrassment. We’ve also worked to make the sessions fun, enjoyable, and memorable. Some of the challenges teach our team a thing or two as well. How many of us could knock up a healthy and tasty dinner for a family for just £7? Well, our young people not only learn how to do it, but they also get to show off their shopping and cooking skills by preparing their meal.
Other sessions include learning how to do housework (hopefully meaning our carer’s homes are spotless and they get an extra hand from their teenage charges), and job-hunting tips like how to write a CV and what to say in an interview.
One of the most important pieces of learning is about finances and money. This is because we are aware that, due to poor financial education, many care leavers find themselves in debt. In other cases, young people leaving care may find themselves with a lump sum of money or a leaving care grant, and it’s important that they understand how to budget and how to spend wisely. After all, having a seemingly large sum of money suddenly available to you when you haven’t in the past could encourage reckless spending or poor financial decisions.
Affinity Fostering are extremely proud of our programme. In a way it makes us truly feel that we are pulling together as a wider family, encouraging discussion of potentially difficult topics, and preparing the teenagers in our care for a world beyond the care system where they can thrive and flourish. After all, it’s all you could want for any child leaving home.