Care Leavers

I encountered the term “care leaver” for the first time a few weeks ago.1 It refers to people who were formerly in some type of foster care situation (Australian and U.K. usage). It sounds very awkward to my ears, though it made sense once explained. Adverbing is, perhaps, an empowering aspect of the term, centered on the individual. And “leaver” is a value-neutral word: one could leave the grocery store, or a job, or an abusive situation.

I started wondering about equivalent terms in the American context. I have seen references to children who “age out” of the foster care system, which is descriptive but not quite the same sort of label. It’s also quite passive—it’s not that they left, it’s just that time marches onward.

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