Leaving the formal alternative care system is an important phase both for young people and the service providers responsible for their care and development. It should represent the effectiveness of investment in State and non-State services and care professionals to empower and enable young people leaving care to transition into independent living successfully and become active members of their communities. However, while the data available about young people leaving care are uneven and relatively meagre in numerous countries, what exists makes systematically depressing reading. Although some care leavers go on to lead successful and fulfilling lives, many struggle for years. Very few young people remain in care placements beyond 18, and a majority leave at just 16 or 17 years of age. In short they have compressed and accelerated transitions to adulthood which contributes directly to their vulnerability and to their marginalisation from education, the labour market and other spheres of life in society.

Why is this Practice Guidance needed?

When young people in an alternative care placement reach a certain age, the State no longer has legal responsibility for ensuring that care, and they have to leave the care setting. This age may differ from country to country. In practice, leaving care is a major life event involving a process of transitioning from childhood dependence in an out-of-home care setting and professional support to self-sufficiency.