ESN Spring Seminar 2012

ESN’s Spring Seminar on the theme of 'Vulnerable youth in transition' took place in Rome on 10-11 May and was organised in collaboration with the Lazio Region. Welcoming some 100 senior managers, researchers and practitioners, half from Italy and half from the rest of Europe, the seminar explored how we can improve outcomes for young people not in employment, education or training, for children leaving public care and early school-leavers.

The first thematic session ‘Transition into adulthood – young people leaving care’ was opened with an academic overview by Emily Munro, Coordinator of INTRAC – International Network on Transitions to Adulthood from Care. She explored the different stages of young people’s journeys through care and the policy and practice implications arising from them. For instance, she spoke of the role of local authorities as “corporate parents who take responsibility for providing the best possible care and protection to children in care which implies a personal concern that goes beyond the traditional expectations of institutions.”

Sandra Verhauwert from Ghent started by outlining the problems that young people in care face. Sandra explained that having realised “that there was a shared concern about the future of these disadvantaged group of young people”, in Ghent they created “Pathways into adulthood”, a project aiming to bridge the gap between the relevant services for children and adults .

Borgo Ragazzi Don Bosco offers services for young people without families (half of them non-Italian) who have been referred to them by local social and justice services. Alessandro Iannini, Project Coordinator, explains how this service tries to engage young men and women socially, either by keeping them in education or training or involving businesses to find them a job. Alessandro highlighted the need to provide support adapted to new social problems such as addiction and poor mental health.

Under the premise that municipalities have the legal duty to support young people leaving care between 18 and 21, the city of Cologne has developed KidS. Manager Sandra Hagemeier reviewed the various services available for young people based on their skills, education or autonomy and emphasized that “investing in young people is an investment in our future.”

Silje Hansen had been in care in Norway and is now working for a children’s NGO. She shared her thoughts on the above presentations: “I have heard the word ‘vulnerable’ a lot here, but these children are strong and independent; they have so much to learn and so much to give too.”

Closing the session, the panel agreed on the importance of a stable relationship with a ‘significant other’ enduring when a child leaves the care system.

Presentations and papers are available for download.