Support to young people leaving state care or foster families
Support to children and young people to become independent after the institutional care
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PODGORICA, 13 May 2016 – Preparing young people to leave the state care or foster families to start successfully their independent life in the adult world is an important element of the ongoing reform of the social and child protection system in Montenegro implemented with support from UNICEF, UNDP and EU.
Preparing the child to leave the institution actually begins the day the child arrives into it. It is of utmost importance to maintain at least some connection between the child and its biological family. It is the best way to ensure the emotional integration, which plays a vital role in the child development.
Speaking at the conference in Podgorica, UNICEF Montenegro Representative Benjamin Perks urged all those who are grappling to understand the human rights imperative of this issue to imagine their own transition to adulthood-to be standing alone at 18 without the support of a family.
Children in state care are our children and their childhood and what happens in adulthood is a reflection of what we stand for as a society.
We need practical measures to systematically secure continuous housing, jobs, education, training and health support for these young people. This is not just the responsibility of the social care sector, but also of the local governments, civil society and the private sector.
For young people in Montenegro, it is planned to develop the service known as “living with support”. It is aimed at the children without parental care who are leaving the institution and beginning an independent life. The goal is to enable them to successfully start their independent lives and integrate into the local community.
The NGO “Juventas” presented the research “Leaving the institutional protection – analysis of the policies, institutional framework and practices” conducted in cooperation with UNICEF. This research points out to the key challenges which young people face when they begin their independent lives after growing up in a child home or in a foster care. It also presents recommendations how to improve the services currently available to them.
“The basic problem comes from the fact that leaving the institution is determined by the date of birth, rather than by the assessment of the actual readiness of a young person to do so. That is why it is necessary to ensure a pyscho-social support to prepare young people for an independent life. Also, we need to fight discrimination, as the research showes that a significant number of these young people face discrimination after leaving the institutional care,” said Ivana Vujovic from the NGO “Juventas”.
Speaking about the experiences and the best practices in Northern Ireland, Vivian McConvey from the Belfast-based NGO “VOYPIC” said that her organization works in partnership with the young people, foster parents, social workers, managers, social services providers, policy makers and the government.
“Our organization has developed systems and processes that simply assist all of you to listen to children and with that information make positive changes in policy, in practice and legislation,” McConvey said.
The conference “Support to children and young people to become independent after the institutional care: “It is hard when the door closes behind you...”, was organized by UNICEF and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare in Podgorica.