We are very happy to launch It’s a small world, our newest column focusing on care experiences in Europe and beyond!
We are getting in touch with a lot of different care leavers associations spread all over the world. We will ask a lot of questions, listen to their stories, share our experiences… Aren’t you excited to find out how the care system works in different countries?
It’s a small world will feature all the interviews and stories we will hear from every corner of the globe, in the hope of encouraging better knowledge, more awareness, and, who knows? maybe even some new collaborations!
Let’s start with our first interview, with the Uganda Care Leavers Association (Ucl). Enjoy!
You can read It’s a small world
here on our website or Facebook page
1) How and when your network was funded?
Uganda Care Leavers (Ucl) is a welfare project designed to support children, youth and adults who spent half or all of their childhood in care facilities.
Ucl was established in 2016 in response to the growing number of children, youths, and adults living in child care institutions. Ucl set out to first learn from the experiences of care leavers before, during, and after care to gain insight on how institutional care impacted their lives and to determine what (if any) measures should be in place to support this specific group in Uganda.
2) What are your main projects and activities?
Ucl activities include:
- Creation of a network of Uganda care leavers that enables members to provide support to each other through shared experiences and mutual understanding; resulting in a community with a common identity. This is facilitated through social media and regional meetings with other social support services.
- Identification of care leaver champions and assisting them mobilise other care leavers.
- Conducting research that enables care leavers to inform and influence government policy and donor attitudes through advocating for changes to the care system in Uganda.
- Ucl advocates for: donors that support institutional care in Uganda to inform themselves of the harm done by long-term residential care and to redirect their existing support for children into reunification and social support programmes.
- Managers of existing residential care facilities to inform the children in their care, and those who have recently left, of the support offered by Ucl.
- Ngos operating in Uganda to include awareness in their programmes and services of the unique problems faced by care leavers. Government policy-makers to include recognition of society’s duty towards care leavers and include provision for them in service design, especially because of the increase in the numbers of care leavers as Uganda deinstitutionalize its child care system.
3) How would you describe the leaving care practices/policies in your country? Do you feel like they could be improved? How?
Many care leavers have lost connections to family members and their community and therefore have no support networks to help them after leaving care. Many care leavers have been exposed to western culture in the care facility and therefore lost understanding of cultural norms, even language and traditions. Many care leavers don’t fully understand community structures and social norms.
- Apply for and hold down a job consistently
- Engage in healthy relationships and recognise poor/damaging relationships
- Having healthy boundaries / privacy inc. social media
- Manage resources effectively (managing money, paying bills, budgeting)
- Understand their rights and responsibilities of being a citizen
- Many care leavers do not have sufficient life skills and therefore struggle to.
Lack of evidence-based research
- The unknown number of care leavers exiting care facilities, i.e. the size of the problem.
- The Covid-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult in Uganda as monitoring of care facilities, i.e. children exiting and entering, is even more difficult.
- Lack of research on the comparison on education & life skills gained at home, i.e. children / youth who grew up with their families, versus care leavers, i.e. children / youth who grew up in institutions.
- Inadequate preparation to leave care and live and work independently afterwards to their future.
Dependency on donors support and interventions
Most care leavers have only experienced support and funding from donors and therefore donor support is ‘normalised’, thus creating a ‘dependency’ mentality that carries on throughout adulthood, i.e. Care leavers still expect or want donors to continue to fund their aspects of their lives (education, vocational, food, medication, living arrangements etc).
Care Leavers Support Network
- The network supports peer-to-peer support
- The care leavers network is regional so we can provide local support to care leavers
- We use Whatsapp and in-person communication mechanisms
- Through the network we disseminate information on job opportunities, health / covid-19 information, emerging issues, events etc.
- The network provide support, friendship and business opportunities for care leavers
- The network advocates for keeping families together in communities
- Counseling can be accessed through the network
Capacity building/ life skills programs
- Care leavers to be able to access life skills programmes to help build fundamental skills and approaches so that they can become productive and happy citizens
Strategic plan on exiting care
- Care facilities should be mandated to provide an exit strategy for all young people leaving their facility to transition them to family or independent living
- Care leavers should also make vocational training available for care leaver during this transitional period
- Care facilities should link care leavers to acre leaver networks and mentoring programmes
Hold government accountable/role of government
- Government should increase deinstitutionalization efforts and development of family-based alternative care (in the community) to prevent children from being unnecessarily separated from their families and communities or placed into family care
- Care leavers should be recognised in law with special provisions to ensure they are provided with aftercare support
- Communities should be engaged with so they understand the importance of family based care to prevent separation and become the ‘gatekeepers’
- Communities should be a part of the care leaves network in order to support care leavers and reduce stigmatisation and discrimination
4) How can we keep in touch and support your organization?
You can write to: firstname.lastname@example.org – telephone +256759732910
How you can support us:
- Advocate for care leavers
- Change our language – reframe ‘care leavers’ as ‘young adults who have experienced care’
- Partners to provide grants/no interest loans for the youth entrepreneurship / cooperative programmes
- Organisations to develop care leaver support programmes
Qualified volunteers who can support with any of our aims
- Fundraising and administration, taining, coaching and mentoring, counseling and psychotherapy, etc.
Edited by Denise Pergher and Silvia Sanchini