Wrexham lawyer throws support behind charities urging Welsh government to extend foster age

The head of one of the largest Family Law teams in North Wales has thrown his support behind twelve charities who have called on the Welsh government to allow foster children to stay with their foster parents until they are 21, in line with changes to the law in England.

John Lancaster, a Partner with GHP Legal who has spoken many times on TV and Radio about Child Law, is a panel member of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering and a respected authority on Care and Children.

"As well as working on cases involving children," said Mr Lancaster, "I also head up the Mental Health team at GHP Legal and in my experience there is often an overlap. Forcing children to leave foster care at 18 can have a devastating effect on their mental wellbeing.

"If a proposed amendment to the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill goes through, local authorities will not have to allow young people to stay with carers beyond the age of 17.  

"It is traumatic enough for any child to be parted from their birth parents and siblings, whatever the reason. Foster parents do an amazing job of bringing stability into the lives of these children and giving them a feeling of self-worth.

"For the system to then virtually abandon them at 18, or worse, at 17, can easily result in further trauma that could manifest itself as depression, drug abuse, crime and a whole host of other potentially disastrous outcomes. Sadly, young people who have been in care are disproportionately represented in prison.

"If foster parents in Wales are given the option to continue supporting, guiding and encouraging these young people until the age of 21 it will undoubtedly improve their opportunities for further education and improve their job prospects.

"I believe we owe them this, particularly in light of the fact that UK government has announced that children in care in England will be able to stay with their foster families until they reach 21."