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About 40 professionals from Italy, UK, Croatia, Ireland and Romania met in Bucharest from 4thto 6thApril for three days of training in the framework of the European project “Leave care Live life” (Funded by Erasmus Plus programme), led by Agevolando.

The perspective of the Italian participants:

Agevolando’s commitment since its birth is to supporting and giving voice to children leaving residential care (communities, group homes, residential care, foster care etc..) known as “Care Leavers”. Within the Italian system, such children, upon reaching 18 years of age are often left to themselves, with limited experience  and emotional development to equip them be autonomous in the society.

Italian youngsters are not alone anyway: in all the European countries and worldwide, every Care Leaver has this great obstacle to overcome and is variously supported by a collection of public services (formal and informal) depending on where he or she lives.

Fully aware of these great differences in the rights of people in the same condition (depending  on the involved country), Agevolando with four Eu partners set itself the goal of starting the networking among the different realities, forms of support and methods of services’ delivery in order to develop recommendations to be presented at the transnational conference of Care Leavers to be held in Brussels.

This work which began in 2017, funded by the EU programme Erasmus Plus, brought together in early April 2019  several professionals (social workers, psychologists and educators) and Care Leavers from the 5 partner countries (Romania, Ireland, United Kingdom, Croatia and Italy) in Bucharest for a three days training course about participation.

From a comparison on the social and legislative situation of Care Leavers in the different countries, it emerged that Italy Croatia and Romania are places where still it is a problem, for various reasons both legislative and economic, to think of a social and welfare project taking into account this population group.

The Anglo-Saxon countries, on the other hand, have a more developed, mature and aware welfare system.

Take Ireland as an example, where children from ages of 16 to 20, who lived for a period of not less than 12 months in a residential or foster family, have the right to develop an “Aftercare Plan” (post-accommodation plan), which takes into account the overall needs of the child (education, employment, health, personal and social well-being, housing and economic support). The children thus supported manage to achieve a dignified and satisfactory life.

In UK, on the other hand, children have the right to be followed until the age of 21 by a mentor, who works with them to develop a plan similar to the Irish one. In fact, funding is allocated to support the costs of  college and university.

The most impressive thing about these systems is that the Children (Leaving Care) Act dates back to the year 2000. As early as 19 years ago, UK had already introduced a legislative system to support the transition to adult life of children grown up outside their families of origin.

Unfortunately, institutional resources and tools are exiguous, most initiatives come from associations and individuals. But for the first time in 2018, Italy too has set up an experimental fund for care leavers, which for three years will fund projects for transition to adulthood, accompanying them up to the 21st year.

The training allowed participants to shed light on and discuss the existence of alternatives that are economically, professionally and humanly possible.

During these 3 days professional relations were created among the participants from different countries, but also from different Italian regions. This synergy, especially among the Italian participants, represents a good starting point for further advocacy projects with the aim of giving a voice to those who currently have little say within Italy.

Angela Ferrero, Valeria Marra, Gabriele Ronco