Advice for children in care and young care leavers

Last reviewed on 5 October 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is difficult for everyone but if you are in foster care or residential care or if you are a young care leaver, you might have some specific concerns. If your family isn’t there to talk to and you can’t see your friends, you might feel very isolated. If your carers are elderly, you might worry about them getting ill.

It’s really important that you let people know how you feel about what’s going on. Talk to your carers, your social worker or someone else you trust and stay in touch with your friends on the phone and online.

We asked one of our Good Thinking experts, who has worked with young people in care, to put together the following advice for you. At the end of this article, you’ll also find the details of three helplines for children and young people in case you’d like to speak to someone.

If you develop any symptoms of coronavirus, tell your carers as soon as possible. You can find information about the virus on the NHS website. Your carers will be able to support you and get medical help if necessary. If you’re a care leaver and you’re living independently, contact your personal advisor by phone or text.

If you have symptoms (or if someone you live with has symptoms), you must self-isolate in line with the government guidance. Your carers can contact the NHS 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do and how to get a coronavirus test.

It’s natural to be worried about what’s going on but it’s important that you don’t bottle your feelings up. Read our advice for children and young people, which includes some top tips, such as:

  • Stay connected and be open about how you feel
  • Stick to a routine
  • Eat healthily and stay active
  • Be kind to others
  • Get enough sleep
  • Balance online and offline activities

If you’re receiving counselling or other support for your mental health, ask your carers and social worker how this will continue during lockdown. You might be able to have phone or online sessions. Read our article about continuing with counselling and other appointments.

It might seem unfair but the social distancing and self-isolation rules are in place to protect you and members of your family. Even if you don’t see your family very often, it’s hard not being able to see them.

Talk to your foster carer or social worker about other ways you might be able to stay in touch with your family safely. If you’re worried about them, your social worker can contact them to find out how they are.

The most important thing you can do is to stick to the official advice as it’s there to protect you, your carers and everyone else.

Talk to your carers about any concerns you have – they will be able to explain what they are doing to stay safe. Most people who get coronavirus have mild symptoms but, if your carers are more seriously affected, your social worker will be able to make sure you have the support you need.

It’s really important that you follow the official advice during the coronavirus outbreak – you can find details of what you can and cannot do on the UK Government website. Your carers and other people you live with would be very worried about your health (and their own health) if you break the guidelines. Even if you can’t see your friends in person, you can keep in contact with them by phone, text or video chat (e.g. Skype or FaceTime). You might like to arrange a set time each day when you speak to them.

You’re probably spending more time at home at the moment but, if you don’t know your carers very well, this might feel awkward. Talk to them about how you’re feeling or ask your social worker to start this conversation. Your carers will want to support you, even though you haven’t known each other for very long.

Because of social distancing rules, you might not be able to see your social worker or personal advisor in person as often as usual at the moment. Some of your meetings might take place over the phone or online instead. As everyone is very busy right now, you might find that it takes a bit longer than normal for them to get back to you or that you can’t speak to your usual contact.

Ask your carers or social worker what arrangements will be made if the original plans have to change. They might not have all the answers straight away but they should be able to look into it and keep you informed.

Make sure you keep in contact with your personal advisor and let them know about any issues that arise, including any money worries. They should be able to put you in touch with other young people in similar circumstances or a Children in Care Council that could offer mutual support. If you’re a student, your Students’ Union and student support staff are also there to help during the coronavirus outbreak.

Watch these video stories by young care leavers and read our article about job and financial uncertainty.

Useful websites and helplines

Become (0800 023 2033)

Buttle UK

Childline (0800 1111)

Children’s Commissioner for England

Drive Forward

Propel

The Mix (0808 808 4994)

YoungMinds

Check out Good Thinking’s articles about five ways to good mental wellbeing and advice for children and young people