New Delhi, 17th December 2020: Care Leavers are an under-recognized global population of young adults in alternative care such as foster homes or Child Care Institutions who are legally compelled to leave such care settings upon turning 18 years old. Their transition into adulthood is neither well documented nor supported by responsible government bodies. This leads many Care Leavers into lifelong cycles of social and financial instability.
The resulting risk of poverty, exploitation and marginalization, affects a growing population of vulnerable youth who represent both an unfolding humanitarian crisis and a compounding economic cost.
A first-of-its-kind, International Care Leavers Convention was held from November 23-25, 2020 to highlight glaring gaps in global social care systems and deliberate on solutions to address them. Organized by Udayan Care India; SOS Children’s Villages Asia; University of Hildesheim Germany and Kinderperspectief Netherlands along with Care Leavers Association and Network (India), Generations Never Give Up (Sri Lanka), Latin American Care Leavers Network and the Zimbabwe Care Leavers Network, with support from several international partners, the Convention created a global platform to amplify the voices of Care Leavers and assemble international experts to advocate their cause.
2200 delegates with diverse expertise including researchers, child’s rights advocates, care providers and legislators from 83 countries joined intersectional conversations that took place over four pre-events and the intensive 3-day virtual Convention. Care Leavers themselves accounted for over 50% of participants. They shared real life experiences that exposed deficiencies in present care systems and workable solutions to remedy them.
A final event of the Convention held on Friday, 11th December summarized key takeaways of care conversations and catalogued concrete commitments from policy makers who will employ this data to advocate lasting, transnational change.
The event was attended by Mr. M.K Singh (Director, Women and Child Development India), Mr. M.M Mahamdullah (Addl. Director, Department of Social Services, Bangladesh), Mr.Madhab Prasad Dhunge (Executive Vice Chair Person, National Youth Council, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Nepal),Mrs. Harshika Ediriweera(Asst. Commissioner, National Department of Probation and Child Care Service, Sri Lanka), Ms. Dhuwarakha Sriram (Chief of Adolescent Development and Generation Unlimited, UNICEF India), Dr. Matthew Nyashanu (Member of Parliament, Zimbabwe), Hon. Ms. Emanuela Rossini (Member of Chamber of Deputies, Italy), H.E Nivine El Kabbag (Minister of Social Solidarity, Egypt), Mr. Tran Van Thao (Dept of Children’s Affairs, Ministry of Labour, Invalids, Social Affairs, Vietnam), Dr. Rinchen Chopel (Director General of South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC).
The session deliberated on key issues like Minimum standards of care leaving at a policy and legislative level How can policy and legislature bridge the gap, mitigate the risks and actualize the needs of care leavers Minimum standards of support for global care and social service systems How can global peer led networks and Care Leaver associations be better supported financially and otherwise What are the commitments of the research community in generating evidence and data that influences policy and practice to support the cause of care leavers Some of the key notable commitments and insights which emerged included: • Mr. M.K. Singh (Director, Women and Child Development India), promised that the key takeaways and requirements of the Care Leavers will be used in policy making to ease their integration into mainstream society. He explained the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act (2015) and the responsibilities of District Child Protection Officers who pair children in need with suitable Aftercare services. He also noted the importance of auxiliary Government initiatives such as rehabilitative peer counselling and vocational training stipends and temporary housing support to bridge pandemic-related shortcomings.
• Mr. M.M Mahamdullah (Addl. Director, Department of Social Services, Bangladesh): committed to advocating for Care Leaver policies in Bangladesh, which currently has none. In addition to initiating budget allocations to support the national Care Leaver community, he confirmed the importance of establishing proper accountability and strong ties with the global population of Care Leavers.
• Mrs. Harshika Ediriweera (Asst. Commissioner, National Department of Probation and Child Care Service, Sri Lanka) said that they are in talks with the National Housing Development Authority and the Ministry of Children and Women to set quotas that will result in housing provisions for Care Leavers in the future. They have also signed an MOU with the National Apprentice Training Authority to provide free skillbuilding courses to youth in residential care. Their long term vision is to include Care Leavers themselves in administering and leading this programme.
• Ms. Emanuela Rossini (Member of Chamber of Deputies, Italy) addressed the establishment of an Emergency fund that pairs Care Leavers with mentors and tutors for transitional support. She is in talks with the Ministry of Education to provide Care Leavers with access to higher education and a bursary from the Universities. In 2019, Ms. Rossini successfully raised the age-limit for care leaving from 21 to 25. She reiterated the importance of Care Leavers participating in ongoing institutional dialogues. She aims to proactively enlist regional Care Leaver representatives to speak in community Councils.
• Dr. Matthew Nyashanu (Member of Parliament, Zimbabwe), promised that his government would revisit the Children Act and ensure amendments to incorporate solutions for Aftercare issues that bolster both support and protection of vulnerable youth.
• Dr. Rinchen Chopel (Member, UNCRC-2021-25 and Director General of South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children) promised that he would take the issue bilaterally with SOS and Udayan Care and ensure that the key takeaways are discussed in the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child) and beyond so that these takeaways are replicated and implemented in different countries. He promised to be a “friend” and a “voice” for Care Leavers in global policy discussion forums.
• Mr. Madhab Prasad Dhunge (Executive Vice Chair Person, National Youth Council, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Nepal) explained that Care Leavers can be linked and integrated to the activities of the Youth Council and thus be part of mainstream society.