In every society there are orphans or children whose parents don’t manage to raise them due to different reasons. In Estonia local governments are responsible for protecting the children of their governing area. Even though all children should grow up in families and ideally the vulnerable children or orphans should be replaced to foster families or to new families, there are still many children and young people who live in care institutions.
The study tackles the main problems of youth leaving care institutions. The study offers an overview of the skills, knowledge and support needed for youth in order to leave care institutions and succeed in their independent life. In addition, the preparedness for adulthood and their ambitions, also their past experiences are brought out.
The results show that the transferring to independent life for the youth leaving care, is too sudden. According to the law, youth aged 18 years and over have to leave the care institution in case they don’t continue in education system. In case the young person is not successful in independent life after leaving care, there is no possibilities to return to the care institution. Also the support, which should be provided by the local government’s child protection specialist, is not always guaranteed for various reasons (i.e lack of such specialists, lack of trust and will from the young person, etc). One of the reason is, that every fourth child is not in contact with their local government child protection specialist while they live in care institution and therefore doesn’t develop trustful relations with such specialists, who could and should support the transferring to the independent life.
Although most of the young people were aware of their right to get a dwelling place from their local government, more than third would not want to return to the town or village they are from (and where their biological parents lived). Despite of having work experience and knowledge of seeking work, the knowledge related to salary is poor and for example the young people were not aware of the average salary in Estonia. The children from the care institutions do not trust or seek advice from people they don’t know well and whom they don’t trust. More than half of the children see that the highest degree of education they can obtain is higher education. The biggest problems in transferring to the adulthood are related to:
- Self-financing and money related planning
- Finding and keeping work
- Social abilities
„The young people from care institutions find that the most important condition when leaving care and starting an independent life is that they have a place to live“ – Pirjo Turk
Most of the children from the care institutions have no contact with their biological parents and in some cases they do not want to create one. This kind of decisions have to be accepted, although it is important to keep in mind that the child has to have knowledge of his/her origins and know why they have been left out of parental care.