SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Social workers and youth care charities are calling on the government to provide help and housing for children in residential care past the age of 18.
Youngsters are often left to fend for themselves once they turn 18 because the law says that is when official help ends.
‘Turning 18 means a party for many youngsters but to these youngsters it means losing their home and help,’ Margot Ende of the foundation Het Vergeten Kind (‘the forgotten child’) said.
‘They are being expected to stand on their own two feet, which is an unfair and impossible start to becoming an adult.’ The foundation says 3,300 children who have been taken into care will turn 18 this year.
It estimates around 65% will be forced to move out of their homes and some will end up homeless. Children in foster homes are supported until they reach the age of 21.
Ministers say they are against removing the age limit and stress the importance of providing proper guidance to youngsters to go it alone.
‘We know when someone is going to turn 18 and youth care workers can prepare much better and earlier for this,’ junior minister Maarten van Ooijen told NOS.
‘Dutch children leave home at the average age of 23 but those in residential are have to be ready to go at 18,’ said Wouter van der Galien, from the youth social workers association told NOS.
‘In practice, some are ready at 17, others at 24. We would like to come up with tailor-made solutions instead.’