Through the two-year project ‘Leaving Care – An Integrated Approach to Capacity Building of Professionals and Young People’, SOS Children’s Villages, in collaboration with international project partners, aimed to train care professionals in how to apply a child rights-based approach in their work with young people leaving care and worked to strengthen support networks for young care leavers.
“First of all, gaining independence should be treated as a process where you could see how things are going. And whether that person is ready. And if she or he isn’t ready, they should at least have someone on their side, so that they don’t just automatically stumble and fall.”
Quote from care leaver, Prepare for Leaving Care Practice Guidance
The Leaving Care project (April 2018 – April 2020)
The Leaving Care project has been co-financed by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union and has sought to further contribute to the capacity building of a range of care professionals who work with children and young people who are leaving care or who have an important responsibility for the well-being of young care leavers.
The project has been carried out in cooperation with SOS Children’s Villages’ national associations in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Italy and Romania as well as the child-focused organisations FICE Austria and FONPC.
Building on previous findings
Supporting young people who have grown up in alternative care is essential so that these young people can lead independent lives. This is why SOS Children’s Villages has undertaken different initiatives to better understand the situation of young people leaving care and the factors that can determine a successful transition to a self-reliant life as adults.
This project has built on findings from the Prepare for Leaving Care project (2017-2018). These findings include:
- Young people want to start preparing for the transition to independence two to three years before actually leaving alternative care.
- Care leavers lack the support network that children growing up with their families have.
- Care leavers want to be supported by care professionals who approach them in a respectful manner.
- Care leavers want flexibility, respect and recognition of their individualism, as well as tailor-made responses that meet their individual needs.
- The lack of national leaving care frameworks contributes significantly to poor outcomes for care leavers.
The Prepare for Leaving Care Practice Guidance and training programme developed together with CELCIS and initially implemented in Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy and Croatia, seek to address these challenges.
Main project objectives
The main objective of the Leaving Care project has been to embed a child-rights based culture into child protection systems to achieve better outcomes for care leavers. This has been achieved by:
- training care professionals on how to embed a child rights-based approach into their work in of preparing young people for the process of leaving care,
- building a support network for care leavers to improve their access to social rights through the digital platform YouthLinks, which offers peer to peer support, coaching and mentoring by care professionals and corporates, as well as tools and networking opportunities
- engaging with stakeholders at European and national level and raise awareness on the need to improve outcomes for care leavers.
Each project country has had a National Steering Group (NSG) that is has been responsible for the implementation of the project and for ensuring its sustainable impact at national level after 2020.
Youth participation has been central and integral to all project activities. National Young Expert Groups (YEGs) have been organised in each of the implementing project countries to ensure that the voices of young people with care experience were heard. The young people selected two peers from each National YEG to represent them as members of the International YEG and the Project Steering Group. At the end of the project, the YEG members have assessed their involvement in project activities and the extent to which their input has been reflected in key tools and project outputs. For most, the project represented an occasion of empowerment as suggested by this quote from an interview with a Young Person in Hungary:
“As a young person involved in the project I always felt that my views mattered and that the people in front of me were open and interested in what I had to say”.
Key project outcomes