Young people in long-term foster care are at risk of experiencing poor social, emotional, behavioural and educational outcomes. Moreover, these placements have a significantly greater chance of breaking down compared to those involving children. This article critically evaluates the factors associated with this particular outcome. It was carried out through a literature review conducted by a social work practitioner in one Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland. The findings evidenced that, apart from overriding safety concerns, placement breakdown was not a one-off event but rather a complex process involving the interplay between a range of dynamic risk and protective factors over time, operating in the wider context of the young person’s history and life experiences. The significance of these findings for social work practitioners is finally considered by identifying key theories to inform understanding and intervention.