Child Care Policy/Country Reports

When Care Ends Lessons from Peer Research: Insights from Young People on Leaving Care in Albania, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Poland

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This report presents  the findings from a two-year peer research project which includes the testimony of more than 300 young people with care experience in Albania, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Poland.  Their collective understanding of the leaving care process directly informed both the findings and policy recommendations contained in the report. More than 40 care leavers from the four countries were selected and trained to play an active role in the all aspects of the projects, from designing the questionnaire to conducting the interviews, analyzing the results and disseminating them.

The interviews revealed widespread inadequacies regarding the process of leaving care, promoting the research team to draw up recommendations to address them. Most respondents argued that care should be extended to cover young people until they reach at least 20 years of age, partly to ensure that the end of care does not coincide with the often stressful end of school. Advanced notice about leaving care was proposed as well, recognizing earlier notice as essential to a smooth transition; respondents called for the process of leaving care to begin up to two years before a young person’s departure. Care leavers also reported being insufficiently involved in the decision-making regarding their departure from care. The importance of leaving care support, including through having a specialized worker, such as a leaving care worker, to be in contact with the young person once they have left care, was also highlighted. Abuse and mistreatment while in care was also widely reported by young people.  

Many care leavers reported that they lacked the basic everyday skills needed to help them through the transition process, including being able to cook a meal or balance a budget. The majority of care leavers indicated that their standard of living had dropped noticeably after they left care, largely due to financial restraints. Communication skills with authorities, after care financial assistance, education and employment information, housing accommodations, health services, psychosocial support against abuse, training of care professionals, and direct involvement of care leavers in the decision-making process also arose as suggested policy and program recommendations designed to ensure that young people who have left care will not be left behind.

Edited by Mike Stein and Raluca Verweijen-Slamnescu

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