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To Sam

Moving out at 16 while in foster care?

So, I was wondering if it was at all possible for me to move out to live on my own while being in foster care. (I'm turning 17 in approximately two months.) I've thought about it for a long time and considered the pros and cons and the responsibilities and all that. Thing is, I'll be in school till I turn 18 or 19 years old, because that's when I'd receive my A-Levels. I could still make it work and work part time. But I'd also have afternoon classes twice a week till 3.40pm. I haven't seen a social worker in years and wouldn't know whom to ask. Also, those adults usually just make things worse. Would I need my foster parents' permit? Or my bio parents' permit? There are a lot of resources on the Internet but according to other former foster youth things are more complicated if you're in foster care. I really don't want to get involved with social services though for lots of reasons. I'm also worried about what would happen if the whole thing fell through or the wrong person found out. I'm worried I'd have to move into a group home. I'd really appreciate it if you could maybe provide me with some information. I really have no idea where to turn to or whom to ask about this- without facing the consequences. Have a good one.

Ask Sam


Hi there,

When you’re 16 years old you're able to move out from your parents or foster carers, but it’s not likely to be easy to do. There are a lot of things to think about before you decide, and  your options will be different if you’ve been living in care.

I get asked a lot about what age you need to be to leave home and it's often not a straight-forward answer. There are a few things to consider them before you make any big decisions.

If you’re under 16 then you can't leave home on your own as your parents or carers are still responsible for you.

When you turn 16 things change. You can leave home and it's unlikely that the police or a court would force you to go back home, as long as you have a safe place to live. You aren’t able to sign a lease to rent a property until you are 18, so you would need an adult to sign your lease for you. Living on your own is expensive so you’d also need a way to support yourself.

There’s something called "parental responsibility" which means someone is legally responsible for you and your wellbeing. Even though you can leave home at 16, that someone still has responsibility for you until you’re 18. If you live in care, social services have parental responsibility for you.

Having social services be responsible for your wellbeing means that there are some things you can't do. One of those things is to claim housing benefit, which is financial help given for housing. The local authority usually treats 16 or 17 year olds as a priority if they have nowhere else to live, but if they have been living in care then it's up to social services to find you somewhere to live. This doesn't necessarily mean going back to your foster carers or a home. Finding somewhere safe for you to live isn’t guaranteed however and depends on your local area and your individual situation.

The best thing to do is to talk to your social worker. They're likely to have the best knowledge of what's available to you. Social workers are often busy and so it might take time to get a reply, but keep trying. You’re entitled to some of their time and it’s important that you are heard.

I hope this has been useful to read, if you have other questions then your local Citizens Advice is a good place to go for some more expert knowledge.

You can always contact Childline for support – Childline councillors are here to listen.

Thanks for writing to me about this.

Take care,


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