Leaving care – 21 November 2018

Young people call for change in the leaving care process

Young people with experience in alternative care shared recommendations on how to improve the leaving care process with more than 60 representatives from governments, NGOs, youth welfare services and universities.

“We were the voice for many young people in the same situation”, says Kruno, 25, from Croatia. “There was so much energy and synergy in these groups, on the national and international levels. I feel like we can change the world.”

Kruno is one of the nearly 170 young people who played a central role in the two-year project ‘Prepare for Leaving Care – A Child Protection System that Works for Professionals and Young People.

The project aims at ensuring that the rights of young people in alternative care are respected and that protection systems adequately support care leavers. Over the last two years, young people actively contributed to identifying the needs of care leavers, the gaps in the current system and recommendations for care professionals and policy-makers.

On 15 November, they shared their recommendations with more than 60 representatives of governments, NGOs, youth welfare services and universities at the final project roundtable in Brussels.  

Main recommendations

The main recommendation young people have for care professionals is to build meaningful relationships.

“It is essential to have a person to rely on when you have troubles, when you want to share your joy or simply a smile,” said 25-year-old Laura from Lithuania, who has experience with alternative care. “We ask for long-term support, and to have someone in case of emergencies.”

Additionally, the young people ask for guidance and advice so they feel empowered and prepared to leave care. They want to actively participate in the individual planning of the leaving care process.

They also appeal to governments to provide support throughout and after the leaving care process so care leavers can access decent housing, welfare, health care and education.

Furthermore, they recommended measures that help counter stigmatisation and discrimination of young people who have been in alternative care.

Building on personal experience in care

“There are life stories behind these recommendations,” said Richard Pichler, Special Representative for External Affairs and Resources at SOS Children’s Villages International. “Any care provider has to adapt to a young person’s individual situation. Care is not there for the providers but for the children. If we want to be true to young people, we need to be flexible.”

“This is not just a training programme, but a genuine role-modelling of a new way to do things”, says Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director of CELCIS, one of the ‘Prepare for Leaving Care’ project partners. She also noted “how rich and meaningful this project has been in equalizing the power of young people, care professionals and the care system.”

Project outcomes

Over the last two years, more than 430 care professionals were trained in how to integrate a child-rights approach in their work and how to help young people prepare for the leaving care process. Ten master trainers were equipped with the knowledge and skills to further build capacities of care professionals in their countries. The five project countries were Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Spain.

Additional project findings
  • 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.

 

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