LEAVING CARE – June 14 2019 Young care leavers speak out A conference in Bucharest, Romania, which brought together young people, policymakers, practitioners and child rights experts, put forward recommendations on how to improve the process of leaving care. Young care leavers had the opportunity to share their own ideas with experts. Around 30 young people, who grew up in alternative care, had the opportunity this week to talk publicly about their experiences at a conference in Bucharest, Romania. The conference ‘Be the change! - Partnering to improve the transition from alternative care to independent living’ brought together young people, policymakers, practitioners and child rights experts. They jointly discussed how to improve the process of leaving care and put forward recommendations. Young people as experts of their own lives Care leavers called for more support in the transition to living independently and to have a say in all decisions affecting their lives. “Young people do need help to overcome the trauma of their childhood, but they also need adequate measures that are taken before they leave care. For example, to help young people financially, find a place to live and help with educational advice,” said Simeon, a care leaver from Bulgaria. Others noted the importance of self-organisation to empower each other. “We have many resources, each of us has their education and skills that we can use and share,” said Robin from Germany. “Older care leavers can train younger ones and be role models,” he added. Training care professionals on how to support care leavers The conference was part of the SOS Children’s Villages project “Leaving Care” which is co-financed by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union. The project aims to train care professionals in how to apply a child rights-based approach in their work with young people leaving care as well as to strengthen support networks for young care leavers. “My personal goal is to make the care leaver network stronger in my country. This is why it is important to me to advocate because I can help other children. I really enjoy taking part in leaving care advocacy and training activities. I would like to do more,” said István, from Hungary. The project has developed a practice guide and a training manual to build the knowledge and skills of care professionals to better support young people in the process of leaving care. The training is given to care professionals in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain, and Romania. Key take aways Participants concluded that care and after care need to be linked. Leaving care should not be a last step in the process and care cannot end at the age of 18. Care leavers need to be able to rely on emotional support of trusted caregivers. Support networks help care leavers to exchange with peers and get support from experts. An example is 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. Access to trainings and internships, to adequate housing and financial support are equally key for the young people’s path to independence. The event was co-organised by SOS Children’s Villages International together with SOS Children’s Villages Romania, the Federation of Nongovernmental Organisations for Children (FONPC Romania) and under the auspices of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Photo: Jakob Fuhr Learn more: To find out more about the project ‘Leaving Care’ including training materials, click here.