Developing community care

Children may be taken into care for a number of reasons: they may have been abandoned, neglected or abused, or they may have parents who are unable to cope (e.g. due to a mental health problem or addiction). Whatever the reason, these children are highly vulnerable. Once they enter the care system, they may be moved from one children’s home or foster family to another. By the time they reach a given age (usually 18, but in some countries 16 or earlier) they are expected to leave the care system and become independent young adults.

This transition can be a difficult experience. Longing for independence like all teenagers, young people leaving care may have little knowledge of the ‘real world’ and lack the life skills they need to look after themselves. This results in lower educational attainment, higher rates of unemployment and higher rates of teenage pregnancy.

Amici dei Bambini launched a project with the support of a Social Experimentation grant last year with the aim of easing young people’s transition to adulthood from care in institutions. The assumption of the project was that young people lack an adult who could help them understand the challenges of the new independent life and support them in their decisions. With this in mind, Amici dei Bambini created the position of ‘social intermediary’ who is assigned to a young care leaver (17-24 years) for 6-12 months to help foster independence in employment (job orientation, pro-active job sourcing and requalification), housing, administrative affairs and general welfare.

The project ran for a year in parts of Italy, Bulgaria and Romania and proved that there is a need to bridge the gap between children and adult social services and provide a better targeted support to young people leaving care. The results were presented in January in Brussels at an Expert Meeting attended by ESN.