Legislation and practice on care for young people is being expanded beyond care plans to better support the transition to adulthood and improve long-term life outcomes.

The transition to adulthood is a significant challenge for young people in care. Alfonso Lara Montero, Chief Executive of ESN, presented how new legislation and the practices of social services are making this transition more successful when speaking at a European Parliament event.

The event ‘European Young People in Residential Care: The Appropriate Transition to Adulthood’ was hosted by MEP Sofia Ribeiro on 8 February to discuss the latest research, policy and practice.

Care leavers have poorer outcomes when reaching adulthood

The transition to adulthood is a vulnerable period for young people, who increasingly rely on family support. On average young people in Europe remain in their parents’ household until age 26. However, care experienced young people often cannot count on the support of a family, and encounter more challenging social problems when reaching adulthood:

New legislation extends the entitlement to care beyond age 18

Local social services have a statutory duty of care for children, and fulfil the role of a corporate parent for children in care. However, legislative and practical support often falls away significantly when reaching age 18.

Several countries have introduced new regulations that entitle young people to extended support:

  • Poland: an empowerment guardian supports young people after reaching age 18
  • Romania: care can extend until age 26 if in education or subject to vulnerability
  • UK: care can extend until age 25 if in education

The extension of care is an important step in recognising that many young people require continued support in their pathways to adulthood. However, the extension of care is often subject to conditions, such as being in education or training.

The practices of social services ease the transition to adulthood

Alfonso referred in his presentation to social services programmes across Europe that provide practical support to young people leaving care (see examples at the end of the article). Common to the success of these are three key elements:

  • A named person who can provide a supportive relationship to the young person
  • Personalised plans tailored to meeting the specific goals of each young person
  • Support that goes beyond employment (including housing, financial support, education, social skills and confidence building)

Legislation to extend the entitlement to care, accompanied by investment in social services practice are key foundations for easing the transition to adulthood for young people in care. Ensuring that this transition is successful will have significant benefits for both the young person and society by preventing the social problems that many care leavers face.

European initiatives such as the European Pillar of Social Rights, and EU funds can play an important role in supporting policy and practice for young people in care if they connect with the priorities of social services working with children and young people. We have outlined in detail these priorities in our report ‘Investing in Children’s Services, Improving Outcomes’.





A programme of training for young people. Those who complete the programme are recruited as ‘Mentors’ to act as guardians for the young people currently enrolled.


  • Practice: KidS - Office for Children, Youth, and Families City of Cologne

Case management based on a close relationship with the young person to support their development and access to services.


A one-stop shop enabling access to housing, education, training, financial support, legal assistance and employment. Individual action plans are used to personalise the support.


A comprehensive analysis of children's services in Europe, with individual country profiles and policy recommendations.

Practical guidance to care professionals and a range of front line practitioners on how to plan the transition to independence with and for young people.