Providing support for care leavers
How we support unaccompanied and separated children who are leaving care may depend, on their care setting, on the reasons they are leaving, on the situation they may be moving to, or on their migration status in the country in which they find themselves.
For example, if a child is ageing out of long term care and starting to live independently in a country of final destination, it may be possible to offer substantial support on a long term basis. If a child is to return to their own country and be reunified with their own family, this will require a specific, carefully managed process.
We also know that each setting may bring its own challenges – perhaps related to lack of human and other resources, restricted availability of services, legal restrictions, stigma and discrimination toward the migrant and refugee population, or a large numbers of care leavers to support at any one time.
Regardless of these different situations, international guidance, including the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children urge us to provide the best possible support, so that children are prepared for, and whenever possible, receive ongoing support through the leaving care process. This is particularly important as children will be leaving the protective and supportive environment that alternative care should have offered them.
Depending on where the child or young person is leaving from, and the context they are moving to, international guidance asks us to consider a number of overarching topics that should be considered in all situations. You will notice that this includes some subjects we have already covered earlier in the course including:
- Assessment of needs, circumstances, and risks and provision of corresponding support
- Planning with the child or young person’s full participation and carefully addressing any fears, concerns, and development of leaving care plans - even if this is has to be a rapid process
- Providing the care leaver with realistic, age and gender appropriate information, including details of the leaving care process and any other decisions that affect them
- Working with the care leaver in a trusting and child friendly manner
- Ensuring the child or young person’s best interests are a primary consideration
Let’s now move to the next course step where we will consider some of the reasons why unaccompanied and separated children and young people leave alternative care, and the risks and outcomes they may face.