This article explores care leavers’ views and recommendations for practitioners and policymakers on the transition from leaving care to living independently in the community.
Seven young adults fully reintegrated through programmes in Kathmandu, Nepal, co-produced action research with 21 of their peers (aged 16–26 years). This article outlines how children and young people affected by child sexual exploitation experience community reintegration, and their views on the key issues reintegration services need to consider.
Findings explored boys’ and girls’ experiences of stigma and discrimination by community members and revolved around social and cultural norms and narratives on masculinity and femininity that denied their victimhood. This article focuses on the theme of independence as it appears to reflect a changing context for reintegration practitioners in South Asia.
Children and young people had not been reintegrated in their family; instead, they were living independently—a situation that can be described as ‘integration’ (with an urban community) rather than ‘reintegration’ (with their family of origin). Research participants’ exploration of ‘independence’ reflected this context and was defined as emotional or financial independence.
The research appears to identify an adaptation to reintegration services to enable a smoother transition for care leavers. Most models of reintegration assume that children will ‘reintegrate’ with their families of origin. This research found that children sexually exploited in Kathmandu chose to ‘integrate’ into a new community to overcome isolation, exclusion and non-acceptance by their families and communities of origin and, in so doing, experienced emotional and financial independence. In this context, successful integration requires the provision of activities for parents that explain indicators of trauma so that they can appropriately support their children. In addition, support for care leavers targeted on psychosocial wellbeing, life-skills and income generation enables young people to live independently from their families and be ‘integrated’ into an urban community.