Care leavers in Catalonia
Care leavers are boys and girls who, owing to difficulties in their family environment, have lived part of their childhood and adolescence either in residential care homes or with foster care families. It should be noted that foster families can be extended family members (other relatives) or unaffiliated. These young people have suffered from neglect, abuse, or abandonment, and the Public Administration has assumed their guardianship.
At present, in Catalonia 5.3 children and adolescents in each 1000 (DGAIA, 2017) are under guardianship. Some of these boys and girls, once they are of legal age, have the opportunity to access different transition-to-adulthood programs and services offered by the Foster and Former Foster Youth Support Area (l’Àrea de suport al Jove Tutelat i Extutelat – ASJTET) in collaboration with various entities.
The existing resources offer youth support in various specific areas. In Catalonia, there are housing, job placement guidance, job training, legal aid, psychological counselling, and economical support programs (ASJTET, 2017; FEPA, 2017). In 2017, the ASJTET assisted/attended a total of 1850 youth, with approximately 140 of them between 16 and 17 years old and, therefore, still in the protection system (DGAIA, 2017).
The programs with the most users are those linked to economic support and housing. Economic benefits, and educational support to learn how to manage money, let youth put into practice their transition project plan that lasted either 6 months or 3 years. Housing programs are aimed at youth without resources of their own or from their family. These programs offer an alternative to an absent or complex family context and support the youths’ life projects and boost their integral development. At present, there are multiple resources in these programs: supervised apartments, residential homes, job placement program apartments, or the Specialized Counseling Service for Foster and Former Foster Youth (Servei d’Acompanyament Especialitzat per a joves tutelats i extutelats, SAEJ).
The social and labor services (called “Via Laboral”) promote care leavers’ professional plan by taking into account their life plans and forward-looking projects. To achieve this, the program considers their demands and provides them with all the ASJTET or the “normalised net” (xarxa normalitzada) orientation, training and professional tools.
The legal aid services assist with immigration enquiries and, to a lesser extent, with civil and criminal matters. Further, the psychological support service provides support in emotional situations that can challenge their development. The psychological intervention is carried out by professionals from the ASJTET, unless the young person is referred to external resources.
Lastly, integrative and transversal training support is carried out in the majority of programs.