The project “INTEGRA Supporting Youth Aging out of Care” addresses the need to facilitate social, cultural and economic integration of minors that end their passage through the care system.
Turning 18 years old is a milestone for a young person. Emotionally, interpersonally and psychologically, however, the transition to adulthood starts long before, and can be prolonged to early or late twenties. Early adulthood involves identity exploration periods, “trying out various life possibilities” towards own volition, “gradually moving towards making enduring decisions” (Arnett, 2000), this is a normal and desirable process. The success of the transition to adulthood highly depends on the connection and supportive guidance of adult role models. A young person’s emancipation involves great personal growth and going through changes in social roles, which poses many challenges. If the young adult is left unsupported these become a source of anxiety and can lead to situation of social exclusion. In comparison to their peers who grow and live in a family context, young people in residential care often have to cope with non-child-friendly structures, where the guardian can be an abstract figure difficult to reach, not always able or prepared to gradually mediate the transition into adulthood. For many unaccompanied children arriving in a new country and close to 18 years old, the situation becomes extremely difficult.
Therefore, the INTEGRA project addresses the need to equip residential care professionals and others who are in touch with young adults to successfully support the social and professional integration of minors leaving care-systems. The project has developed tools that will a) build the capacity of such professionals as Leaving Care Mentors, and b) support sustainable multi-agent collaboration. The needs of children transitioning to adulthood were researched in 5 EU countries prior to implementing training with Leaving Care Mentors. Country and children specific approaches were designed, focusing on resilience, forward goal projection (Losi, 2006) and entrepreneurial drive. The INTEGRA Mentoring Integration Programme (MIP) envisions a personalized participatory framework, where the mentor has the role to guide, connect, mediate, support the children in the restoration process of new reference points (in the absence of the old ones like family, culture, friends) (Haesevoets, 2008) for his/her future socio-economic and cultural inclusion as an persona integrated in the community.
The project offers for free:
1. An online Mentoring Integration Platform, with a tool for self-evaluation of the care leaver, and guidance for mentors, with support material for follow-up process post evaluation
2. A network of collaboration with organizations and social agents who are in contact with the boys and girls to exchange experiences and offer mutual support (over thirty-three entities from Italy, Portugal, Cyprus and Spain already joined).
3. An online cooperation platform to facilitate communication and share knowledge among these agents (educators, NGOs, mentors, labor insertion workers and youth information points, etc.)
4. A White paper ” Ageing out of care into autonomous living” presenting 9 pillars for development: Education, Community Participation & Interpersonal Relationships; Health; Career & Employment; Financial & Money Management Skills; Housing; Bureaucracy, Legislation & Networking, Self-determination, Autonomy Skills & teenage development.
5. Five national reports about the situation of the children living and growing out of the care system, and the legal structures around them, in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
The #INTEGRAeu project, carried out between June 2018 and May 2020, has been co-financed with the support of the European Commission. Its contents and materials are the sole responsibility of its authors. The Commission is not responsible for the use that can be made of the information disclosed herein. (project code REC-RCHI-PROF-AG-2017-785.703)