Transitioning from alternate care to adulthood takes place at a younger age compared to transitions from family life. Moreover, there are set specific criteria to determine when young people should be able to take care of themselves and leave the alternate care system; in families, youngsters usually have more flexibility.

The studies from other welfare countries have drawn attention to the problem that youth from institutional substitute care may lack skills needed in independent everyday life; this results in a lower success rate in education and the labour market. In Estonia, there is not much information about youngsters who have left the alternate care system and lead independent lives.

Therefore, the aim of this study is to find out:

  • how well-prepared for independent life are children in substitute care that are transitioning to adulthood;
  • how well have young adults from substitute care that have already transitioned to adulthood managed their independent lives;

and to:

  • provide recommendations as to how children in substitute care should be supported in order to ensure their good functioning in society.

The study shows that the youth transitioning to adulthood require a uniform approach across Estonia to be adequately prepared for entering independent life.

The main findings of the study are as follows:

  1. There are differences between the institutional levels of substitute care across the country.

The quality and working procedures of substitute care facilities differ across regions and within locally governed areas. Local governments lack means for cooperation that would result in finding homes for youngsters from substitute care outside of their assigned local government areas.

  1. The youth from institutional substitute care found that one of the most important conditions in transitioning to adulthood is a place to live (and work).

The study suggests that the future living, studying and working place of a young person from substitute care should not be determined by their assigned local government area; young people should be able to freely move across the country depending on living, study and work opportunities available to them.

  1. Although young people from institutional substitute care deem their everyday skills adequate for independent living, a lack in knowledge and skills might be revealed only after living independently.

The interviews showed that often before living an independent life in reality, young people overestimate their skills and knowledge related to everyday life. Thus, it is necessary to provide youngsters with the means to test circumstances of independent living in a substitute care facility or outside of it (in the form of semi-autonomous living).

  1. Better preparation and cooperation is needed in order to transition youth from substitute care to independent life.

This entails clear communication between the person in a substitute care facility and their support network regarding the former’s needs, expectations and opportunities. In order to better plan the independent life of the youth from substitute care, the functions of a case plan – a document created by a social worker of the local government or a child protection specialist – should be implemented more comprehensively.

For the English overview of all suggestions, see the full list starting at the end of the page.