New Delhi, November 27, 2020: International Care Leavers’ Convention, organised by Udayan Care (New Delhi), SOS Children’s Villages International (Austria), Stiftung Universität Hildesheim (Germany) and Kinder Perspectief (The Netherlands). The three-day Convention held between November 23rd to 25th saw participation from 900 international delegates with diverse expertise and experience in the global care system.
The Convention addressed pressing matters such as the impact of COVID-19 on Care Leavers. The definition of a care leaver is a young person aged 16-25 years old who has been ‘looked after’ at some point since they were 14 years old, and were in care on or after their 16th birthday. The stories of Care Leavers around the world emphasised the urgent need for systematically established Care Leaver networks that can support vulnerable youth during extenuating times such as a global health crisis.
Tanja Abou (Germany) who spoke from the triple perspective of a care leaver, social worker and researcher posed a striking question, “The average age of young people leaving their parents home is 25 but for care leavers, they are compelled to leave at the tender age of 18. Do policymakers think that they are “seven years more ready for life” and its challenges? 25 should be the new 18.”
Experts from countries such as Australia, Canada, Egypt, Germany, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, the UK and many more shared in-depth care practice knowledge that now serves as a repository from which global care workers can build stronger policy, practice and strategy. The Convention collated research insights from experts including Mark Riddell, MBE (Department. of Education, UK), Douglas Ragan (UNHABITAT, Canada), Susana Puerto (ILO, Switzerland) and researchers such as Dr Joseph Mcdowall (CREATE Foundation, Australia) Prof. Mike Stein (University of York, UK), Dr Aida Essaid (King Hussein Foundation, Jordan), Dr Rawan W. Ibrahim (German Jordanian University, Jordan) and Susan Barton (Lighthouse Foundation, Australia).
Amanda Bissex (UNICEF, South Asia) said, “I have collected valuable insights from the convention, which will help me discuss new strategies with different policymakers in South Asian countries.”
Policymakers like Mia Dambach, International Social Service (Geneva) and Nancy Maguire, Lumos (UK) noted that information and recommendations gleaned from the Convention can serve to represent the needs of care leavers at the Day of General Discussion: an assembly convened in Geneva every two years by the Committee on the Rights of the Child to develop a deeper understanding of the content or implications of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). They went on to invite attending care leavers to join pre-consultations leading to the upcoming DGD discourse.
On the second day, macro-policy conversations culminated in a granular focus on the next steps to cohesively bolster global care reform. A document penned in conjunction with 100 Care Leavers from 25 countries earlier this year was foundational to these discussions. Entitled “Declaration on Responding to the Transnational Needs of Care Leavers amidst COVID19 and Beyond”, the document delineated eleven glaring gaps in social care practice with recommended solutions for each. The following policymakers drove this dialogue: Hon Muchi Chinyanganya, Member of Parliament, Zimbabwe, H. H. Leelananda – Deputy General Manager (Property), National Housing Development Authority, Sri Lanka, Joseph Koch, Managing Director, German National Section of FICE and Advisor to the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, and Chandrika Khatiwada, Director, Institute for Legal Research and Consultancy, Nepal.
The Convention concluded its third and final day with a retrospective focus on best practices in social care with a central focus on the needs and demands of Care Leavers themselves. The most notable points made by Care Leavers directly included the need for:
– Access to free and quality mental health care
– Access to digital skill-building to strengthen access to information, education and employment opportunities
– Care Leaver representation at important international forums and their inclusion in decision-making processes
– The promotion and advancement of peer to peer local and national support groups
– Participatory research on Care Leavers that reflects their strengths, challenges and resilience in their own words
The intersection of expert insights and real-life stories of those who have endured deficiencies of the global care system resulted in effectively highlighting policy gaps as well as bridging human narratives to mobilise positive change.
Organising Committee members, Dr Kiran Modi (Founder and Managing Trustee of Udayan Care), Shubha Murthi (DCOO/IDR, SOS Children’s Villages International) Martine Tobe (Director, KinderPerspectief) and Prof. Wolfgang Schröer (University of Hildesheim), jointly expressed the importance of taking this momentum forward towards concrete global policy improvements in care practices.
The most visible takeaway of the Convention was a growing sense of community among global care leavers, care workers, researchers and policymakers.
Nimmu Kumari (Care Leaver, Sri Lanka) said, “What we feel now is a heart to heart connection with the global Care Leaver family.”
In an apt summary of the first-ever International Care Leavers Convention 2020, Global Child’s Rights Advocate, Delia Pop said, “We are witnessing the growth of a global social movement.”