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There are currently more than 30,000 children and young people in care in Spain. From them, more than 5,000 are involved in an emancipation process and more than 3,800 are close to legal age (Spanish Childhood Observatory, 2013 ). In Spain there are many young people who have been under care and that when they reach the age of majority have to emancipate without the support of their families or without the sufficient resources to do so appropriately. In such cases emancipation occurs without the guarantee that the young person has achieved a sufficient level of autonomy, which leads to a clear situation of vulnerability.

Until recently, in most regions of Spain, there wasn’t a specific legislative framework for young care leavers. Thus, policies and support programs for care leavers have been unevenly developed in the different territories.

In the absence of specific services that facilitate the emancipation of young care leavers one of the most used formulas used with young people reaching adulthood and that are under care  is the extension of their stay in residential centers for a period that can be from a few months to over a year or two in some cases.

There are organizations that develop care projects addressed to young people without family support, especially for young people in care and care leavers aged between 16 and 21 years old. The fields in which care services are provided to these young people are the following:

  1. Alternative housing resources on a voluntarily basis in different modalities) assisted flats for youngsters aged 16 to 18 years old and b) assisted flats for youngsters aged 18-25 years old.
  2. Services promoting family integration: resource with limited places that hosts families of foreign care leavers.
  3. Services providing specialized support and alternative housing: aimed at young people older than 18 years and that are used to a much higher degree of autonomy than those youngsters placed in assisted flats. Support to the youngster in their personal itinerary is also provided.
  4. Educational pathway. The level of school failure is much higher among young care leavers. Support through their teachers /educators gives them the opportunity to pursue their educational pathway.
  5. Job placement of young people.
  6. Legal advice. Legal advice and mediation support is provided by the organizations in collaboration with the Administration of a specific region. Support is provided in the fields of immigration, criminal matters, civil matters, and monitoring of other legal issues.
  7. Family Ties. Support in the development of family ties, in the acceptance of the situation, establishment of roles …
  8. The social network and leisure activities as normalizing spaces to reduce stigma.

To date the Catalan legislation has been a pioneer in Spain in this matter providing since 2010 specific support for young care leavers. Recently it has been approved the Law modifying the protection system of children and adolescents (July 8, 2015) which includes for the first time, specific measures to promote the emancipation of young care leavers in all regions of Spain through Article 22 bis. “Preparation programs for independent living. Public authorities will offer training programs for independent living aimed at young people who are under care measures, particularly in residential care or in a situation of special vulnerability from two years before the age of majority, once they have reached the age of majority, anytime they need it, with a commitment to participate actively and use its benefits. The programs should promote their socioeducative monitoring, housing, social and labor integration, counseling and financial assistance”. This new legislative framework opens up a wide range of possibilities which is are mandatory to be deployed and concretized by the different regions in Spain.

There are currently few data and studies on young care leavers without family support and under an emancipation process in Spain because no monitoring is being done once they reach majority of age. This implies a very high lack of knowledge about their evolution and their ability to emancipate and be autonomous.

Identification of needs: Despite the general lack of data, from various existing studies at national and international level, the following needs are identified:

  • The need for support services in the field of emancipation for improving the level of social integration of young care leavers;
  • The need to provide personalized support
  • The need to foster progressive changes
  • The need to combine educational and economic support

Challenges and lines of action:

  1. Ensure policies and services addressed to young care leavers in Spain. In this regard the new legislative framework has the potential to ensure consistent and effective policies and services throughout the Spanish territory.
  2. Preventive action before the age of majority in the field of personal work and social autonomy to have more guarantees of success in the emancipation process.
  3. Access to compulsory and post-compulsory formal education as a way of generating better opportunities and future employment.
  4. Facilitation of work permits for young care leavers from foreign countries.
  5. Improvement of actions in the development of the social network and family relations of the youngsters.
  6. Ensure the establishment of programs that respond to the needs of young people with mental health problems and disabilities.
  7. Ensure the inclusion of initiatives on gender equality and violence prevention before the age of majority.

Source: Dossier young care leavers: the challenge of emancipation today (Jóvenes extutelados: el reto de emanciparse hoy en día). No. 41, January 2015 Author: Ana Villa, FEPA Director (Spanish Federation Assisted Flats)

FICE Spain