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Stability is vital for young people leaving care

Published: 2 November 2018 at 15:37

A young man leaning against a wall

Lessons for social workers and policy makers after EU-funded research project

Vulnerable young people leaving care need stability to live independent lives, according to a new report by Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Helsinki.

The report Reciprocal Emotional Relationships: Experiences of stability of young adults leaving care has been published following a two-year EU-funded research project which enabled young people to interview their peers on their experiences of leaving the care system. Researchers hoped this would lead to the interviewees feeling more comfortable about talking frankly of their experiences.

The study involved 74 young people aged between 17 and 32 in Finland and England. Of the interviewees, 60% of young people considered their health and security to be very good, 30% felt it was good enough, and 10% felt it was not good.

The study found the young people need personal support and care from other individuals, as well as the freedom to strive for their goals and desires while leaving care. It also demonstrated that lessons can be learned in social work practice from the experiences of young adults leaving care in Finland and England. 

The report emphasises the importance of three factors in ensuring young people are emotionally ready to live independently after leaving care: redesigning the orientation of child- and family-specific child protection work; improving psychosocial support provided to youth; and enabling a gradual transition to independence. 

Project leader Professor Maritta Törrönen, who was seconded to Anglia Ruskin University from the University of Helsinki as a Marie Curie Individual European Fellow, said: 

“Education, work, training and other worthwhile activities, together with sufficient income, foster stability in the everyday life of young individuals starting independent life after leaving care.

“The stability of relationships guarantees increasing familiarity and closeness with certain individuals, which means the ability to share positive experiences and memories with them. Such positive experiences are usually associated with certain locations, which the youth recognise as familiar.

“Child- and family-specific child welfare services can benefit from a community orientation based on a comprehensive notion of wellbeing and an understanding of long-term social networks.

“Supporting emotional wellbeing and providing special services is also important, especially when young people have trouble leading their lives due to mental health problems or substance abuse.”

The full report is available at https://blogs.helsinki.fi/reciprocalencounters-youngadultsleavingcare/publications/