Vulnerable children should be allowed to stay in care until they are 25, the children’s commissioner for England has said.
Nearly a third of young people who had to leave residential care at 18 or foster care at 21 felt they had been forced to fend for themselves too early, Anne Longfield said.
The survey of nearly 3,000 children and young adults also found more than half did not understand why they were no longer living with their parents.
With around 69,000 children in care in the UK, Ms Longfield said it was “unacceptable” that about 35,000 youngsters were confused about why they were in care.
She told the Press Association: “This group of young people are probably the most vulnerable, often having suffered from extreme neglect, often abuse and often trauma.
“They are no longer living with their parents and have often not had stable placements. They are the least likely to find employment and most at risk of drugs, alcohol and crime.
“They need support as they go into their adult life.”
Around 10,000 young people aged 16-18 leave care each year, according to the Who Cares Trust.