This practice guidance aims to assist Local Authorities (LAs) and their Corporate Parenting partners (CPs) in the development and implementation of strategies which enable care leavers to remain in secure, stable care placements (foster or residential) until such time as they are ready to move on. Strategies which emphasise young people's entitlement to support into adulthood, and which offer the option to return to care placements if and when they encounter difficulties.

Staf has been directly involved in the development of this guidance and this 'at-a-glance' guide summarises the document. The full guidance is available to download from our website here (PDF).

Crucially, the guidance has been developed to encourage and assist organisations to change the culture in which we try to meet the needs of young people leaving care. Specifically that end of care planning decisions should be based on meeting the needs of the individual rather than age or legal status.


Young people leaving care continue to have poor outcomes despite the efforts and investment by services. Research clearly shows us that the transition period towards interdependence is when young people are most vulnerable. This is the time when responsible corporate parenting can make a difference to a care leaver's life.

Key Principles

Delaying the exit out of care for young people until they are sufficiently skilled and emotionally ready is not a new phenomenon. The Staying Put approach takes this idea further. It demands needs led assessment and promotes the importance of consistent positive relations. All successful Staying Put schemes should be developed with the following key principles in mind:

  1. Young people are encouraged, enabled and empowered to remain in positive care settings until they are ready to move on.
    LAs will ensure that young people are aware of their right to remain in their placement and give them the opportunity to exercise that right.
  2. No looked after young person leaves care without the skills and support necessary for success.
    As is done with their own children, individuals with Corporate Parenting responsibilities will ensure that a looked after young person leaves their care placement with the practical skills and positive support networks that underpin successful adult life.
  3. Local Authorities and their Corporate Parenting Partners will have made explicit their commitment to the Staying Put Scotland approach.

Local children’s services plans and other relevant planning documents will be clear about the commitment to care leavers and support for the Staying Put approach. Detailing policy and procedure to make this practice real they will also identify the measures of success.

An Explicit Philosophy of Care

The Staying Put Scotland approach represents an explicit philosophy of care. This cannot be overstated. The central elements of Staying Put Scotland are as follows:

The importance of relationship based practice

Research points us to the importance of maintaining relationships and attachment. This applies to both carers and professionals. It is these relationships which can hold things together as the young person moves on. The Staying Put Scotland approach advocates that young people should be able to remain in a placement or at the very least return their previous placement for an evening meal or period of respite.

Extended and graduated transition

Accelerated or abrupt transitions from care settings should be avoided. Corporate Parents will ensure that the encouragement, enablement and empowerment of young people to make gradual transition towards independence becomes standard practice. Care Leavers must be able to return to care placements or a more supportive care setting if and when they meet with any difficulty, providing a vital safety net.

Post-care accommodation options

Joint planning and partnership working is at the core of all good child care practice. Pathways or transition plans should reflect the dynamic and changing nature of young people’s needs and circumstances as they progress towards adulthood (see separate Housing Options Protocols for Care Leavers summary and guidance).

Practice Examples

The guidance document showcases a number of cases of innovative practice where localities have supported young people to remain in existing care settings, make graduated transitions or return to previous placements.

Staying Put in Family Placements

Many LAs are enabling young people to remain with their existing foster carers beyond the age of 18 by facilitating a change of placement to 'supported carer' or 'supported lodging'.

Staying Put in Group Care Settings

In order for a group care setting to be effective it must reflect a strong shared philosophy of care and a positive culture which promotes a sense of belonging. There are specific challenges in establishing opportunities to either 'stay put' or 'return to group care settings'. Corporate Parents in partnership with the care inspectorate should work to make these arrangements routine.

Criminal Justice

Care leavers are over-represented in the criminal justice system. LAs, the Scottish Police Service and the Scottish Prison Service as corporate parents will want to ensure that care leavers are identified within the criminal justice system at key points: arrest; detention; and discharge. All CPs will ensure that care leavers continue to receive access to necessary throughcare and aftercare support services.

Regardless of their ultimate destination, all care leavers should be encouraged, enabled and empowered to remain in positive care settings, maintaining and enhancing supportive relationships until such time as they are ready to begin an extended transition towards adulthood.

For more information on staf's policy relating to Staying Put, please contact Pamela Graham: [email protected]


Staf: At-A-Glance Guide to Staying Put Scotland (PDF)