Making the transition from foster care to independent living

Students chatting together

As a care experienced student, Erin offers advice and experiences of what it’s like to make the transition to living independently at uni

  • 16 June 2021
  • 3 min read

I started living alone for the first time while at uni. Moving away from home and my foster carer was a big change and sometimes a little uncertain.

But there's loads of support out there, so I want to share a bit of advice for anyone going through a similar process. There were scary moments and you’ll need to try new things and sometimes go out of your comfort zone, but it's important to remember we're all learning.

Get support when you need it

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Making the change to living independently is a big decision and may create feelings of distress and uncertainty. Make sure to tap into the support network around you if you need support or any questions answered. This can include friends and family, social workers and personal advisors. The thought of living independently can make you nervous but remember this is an exciting time and a milestone in your journey. And there's loads of resources out there to help you prepare for uni.

When I transitioned to living independently, I reached out to many people around me for different things. I chose to get support financially, mentally and emotionally. This could be from needing a chat with someone you trust, to helping move furniture around. This was especially helpful when I felt like I was by myself.

At any time if you're a bit unsure or nervous about anything, try talking about it. Confide in a friend at uni, your foster carer or the university will always be open to helping you through any issue you come across.

Erin, care leaver student

Practice makes perfect

Have you practiced your cooking skills? How confident are you with doing your own laundry? These are some of the skills that you'll need when living independently. I'd aim to learn 3 or 4 basic cooking recipes so you're confident that you can 'chef up' when you get hungry. Learning to use public transport is also beneficial in getting to know the area as well as saving those taxi fares!

Something interesting and beneficial that I learnt from my flatmates at university was how to save money when grocery shopping. I knew which foods were good to buy yet cheaper than the expensive brands I used to get. Chores may seem like a bit of a burden but my advice is try to get into a routine of doing them, because then you’ll find them easy and not too boring.

Student cooking at home

Aim to learn 3-4 basic cooking recipes so you're confident that you can 'chef up' when you're hungry.

Control your spending

Find yourself spending too much money on taxi fares and takeaways? Don’t worry, budgeting can help you manage your finances and keep those pesky outgoings under control. Planning and budgeting will become your best friends in finding out when and where your money goes and how to manage them better. A personal tip would be to start a savings account for emergency funds and rainy days.

I learnt to budget from my personal adviser and my former foster carer. I'd practice in real life situations whilst still being in a safe and comfortable environment. By doing this, my confidence with budgeting grew as time went on. This is a great skill to have as you get older too.

Know your rights and how to access legal entitlements

While living independently can be tricky, one thing that you should be confident in is knowing what support is available to you and how to maximise your opportunities.

This will be helpful when you may not have the answers to certain questions. To find out what you may be entitled to, you can look on local council websites, the government website, or ask your social worker, as well as looking at what different charities have to offer if you need extra support.

Knowing what I am entitled to and when to expect this support made me feel more control of my life and became a little less stressful for me when living independently. I was surprised by entitlements and the amount of support out there for care leavers and estranged youth. This was a positive thing as it made me feel as if I was not alone.

And at any time if you're a bit unsure or nervous about anything, try talking about it. Confide in a friend at uni, your foster carer or the university will always be open to helping you through any issue you come across.

If you're at university without the support of a family or network, you're not alone.

Take a look at some of the financial, wellbeing, and social support available to you, both at Portsmouth and externally.

External support

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