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Semi-independent living

Video featuring a refugee who arrived in Mexico when he was a child accompanied only by a sibling.

In this video we hear from Giovanni, a refugee who arrived in Mexico when he was a child accompanied only by a sibling. Giovanni has moved into a semi-independent living programme. He explains how his current accommodation has been provided by the NGO Fundación Casa Alianza after he left their small group home in Mexico City. You may remember we were able to take a closer look at this small group home in Week 4 of your course. We then hear from Dolores López – an Independent Living Supervisor working for Fundación Casa Alianza. Dolores explains her role as a support worker for Giovanni. We will also hear from Sofía Alzazán, the National Director of Casa Alianza México who will tell us a little more about the importance of supporting young people like Giovanni.

Semi-independent living is a way that allows young people to take steps towards independent living after leaving an alternative care setting, while still receiving some support. Projects like the one you will hear about in this video provide young people with rent free or low rent accommodation – sometimes a place of their own or sometimes sharing with one or more other young people. A further component of these projects include regular contact with a project worker whose role includes providing practical and emotional support, as well as helping to access services.

Children should be involved in deciding the right time for them to transition from care – maybe first to semi-independent – and then on to independent living. It is a time when they need to feel protected and nurtured until they feel ready to live without supervision or support. As part of the process to consider whether semi-independent living is the best option for a child or young person, the case worker should carefully assess the child’s practical life skills and any support they will need. This includes paying careful attention to social and emotional needs and making sure they are ready and capable to support and protect themselves.

When we were developing this course, we asked a group of young people, who had been unaccompanied and separated children on the move and now are part of a semi-independent living programme, what they most needed support with. They provided us with the following answers:

  • Learning how to cook and clean and all the practical things they need to do to take care of themselves
  • Provision of practical items like clothes and food
  • Access to legal services
  • Learning the local language – this is very important for integration and everything else that follows
  • Financial support
  • Having a phone – this helps them to keep in contact with friends and family back home or in other places
  • Access to education
  • Access to social and recreational activities – this provides a sense of wellbeing, a means to interact with other young people and make friends, and ways to integrate with other children and young people in the local community
  • Being provided information about the country they are staying in – how things work in this different environment and culture, how to access services and what activities are available
  • Information to help them adapt to new environments because they come from different cultures and backgrounds
  • Help with social integration and making friends

Because semi-independent living provides a high level of freedom and relies on a child or young person’s self protective skills, it is also a time when we should pay close attention to their safeguarding from possible risks. Such risks include, for example, finding hazardous ways to earn money to continue their migration journey or help their families back home, becoming victims of traffickers or others who will exploit them.

We will consider how these topics and other concerns and risks should be carefully considered as part of planning for leaving care later this week.

We realise that the example from Mexico depicts a young man moving into independent living in a relatively stable context. However, the principles of how to support and respond to a young person leaving care should still be applicable in different situations.

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Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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