November - December 2018
Special Issue on Care Leavers
"I realized there is much more to life than being angry about my past. But it's a tool. That was a tool to help me advocate. And this is why, nowadays, I'm actually not angry. I'm excited and empowered. I use this as a tool to speak."

- Ruth Wacuka, Care leaver, from The Love You Give

"We are advocating and we are speaking and we are shouting about it and we will continue shouting about it that children need families and not institutions."

- Samora Asere, Care leaver, from The Love You Give

"The care system messed with my head. But I stayed sane by shouting about it from the rooftops."

- Lemn Sissay, Care leaver, writer, and performer, from Superkids documentary
Focus on Care Leavers
Today, International Human Rights Day , we recognise the experiences and contributions of care leavers. Careleavers' voices and advocacy efforts are integral to reforming care systems and upholding human rights globally. This issue of the BCN newsletter highlights their stories, the role of care-experienced young people as human rights defenders, and the latest resources on their experiences and recommendations.
The Contributions of Care Leavers to
Care Reform
In Conversation with Ruth Wacuka and Samora Asere of the
Kenya Society of Care Leavers
Ruth Wacuka

"Being deprived of parental care at a tender age and growing up in an orphanage gave me a chance to feel what millions of children like me feel in similar situations. At a young age, I witnessed my family falling apart and no bits of last hope were left within our reach. Out of my painful experience in the orphanage, I chose to educate others. My greatest passion is service to humanity which I do by advocating for children's right to family and care reform worldwide.

With a background in Journalism and Mass Communication, I chose to use the skills I acquired to live my passion. In my quest to fight for the rights of children, I have had the privilege of participating in care reform engagements, including being the keynote speaker in the first African Expert Consultation on Violence Against Children that took place in June 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya, publishing the opening address by the youth for the European Union Conference held in June 2018 in Brussels, addressing the Care Reform Workshop by Lumos in July 2018 in London, and delivering a speech on the importance of families to children at The One Young World Summit held in October, 2018 in the Netherlands that saw 2000 delegates in attendance. I am also an official with Kenya Society of Care Leavers (KESCA) , an association whose mission is to promote the well being of careleavers and lobby for the rights of institutionalized children." 
Samora Asere

"My name is Samora Asere, champion and advocate for the rights of care leavers and children. I advocate for children to grow up in safe, caring and loving families by sharing my experience in an orphanage through public speaking, conferences and workshops. I went through a traumatic and damaging childhood that left me a bitter person in life. I was socio-emotionally disturbed. But, luckily, I overcame this through personal development programs provided by the Kenya Society of Care Leavers (KESCA) .

As a care leaver with past experience, I can be a voice for the voiceless care leavers by actively participating in bringing about BETTER alternative care reforms for children and working closely with partners, stakeholders and the government to actively promote the best interests of the child and ensure that we have 100% (care leaver) youth participation in matters of design, evaluation and review of policies and guidelines as well as their implementation."
What is the Kenya Society of Care Leavers and how do you advocate for change?

Ruth : It is a safe space for youth who have exited care facilities. We seek change through evidence-based advocacy. Each member has their own story which we use as evidence to approach policy makers and the relevant stakeholders.

Samora : Kenya Society of Care Leavers is a registered organization for and by young people who spent part or all of their childhood in residential care, orphanages or institutions. We advocate with solidarity for quality care for institutionalized children; for children to grow up in loving, caring and safe families; and for those same families to be given quality support to take care of their children. We do this through speaking and sharing our experiences in conferences, workshops, walks, and public forums for awareness campaigns and sensitization.

What is your role in the Kenya Society of Care Leavers and how did you become involved?

Ruth : I am the secretary of the Society and I handle all the secretariat work. I joined KESCA a year ago after one of the members told me about the Society. I felt we shared the same conviction and, of course, the same care experience. I believe in the vision and last year I was elected into office. Besides my secretarial duties, like any other member, I advocate for the rights of institutionalized children. I do this from a policy level by challenging the implementation of the existing policies and pushing for new policies (where necessary) around Child Protection.

Samora : I am the current chairman of the Society. I came to be involved with KESCA because I share in its mission and vision. I want to see empowered care leavers lead a meaningful life, actively participate in the promotion of the rights of children without parental care in orphanages, and advocate that such children have a right to grow up in loving, caring and safe families by sharing the harms being caused by institutionalization of children through my experiences in care.

Why is it important for care leavers to be involved in care reform advocacy?

Ruth : They are the best advocates for care reform. They know it, they have lived it and they know the harms of being institutionalized, how deep or shallow the scars are and to what extent. They know what they lacked and what they longed for. They understand the journey all through to the end. This is their language! Hence, they're the best people to lead the process. 

Samora : Care leavers have first hand experiences, having lived it their entire childhood, of being inadequately prepared to fit in the community after leaving care and being abandoned by the very system supposed to support us. We can change this narrative of unnecessary separation of children from families into institutions, and people of good will coming to volunteer thinking they are doing it for the best interest of the child but making the situation worse. We want to be involved through sharing our traumatic childhood experiences and, by doing so, people should not sympathize with us but empathize and recognize the importance of our stories to bring change in care reforms.

As a care leaver and advocate, what changes do you hope to see?

Ruth : I look forward to a time when children will grow up in families. Where unnecessary separation of children with their families will be a thing of the past. I would want to see an after care policy adopted by every country to ensure support for care leavers. I hope to see care leavers involved in the design, implementation, evaluation and monitoring of these policies. 

Samora : That every child is given the right and opportunity to grow up in a loving, safe and caring family. Institutionalizing children should come as a last resort after properly and carefully exhausting all the existing alternative care options and employing alternative care reforms. I'd like to see support given to care leavers, not as a charity, but an obligation and I believe that care leavers should be involved in the design and evaluation of initiatives touching on their current lives and past experiences by formulating, developing and reviewing policies and guidelines and being involved in the implementation process.

Our new film, launched on 20 November along with ' The Love You Give ' campaign to end orphanage volunteering, tells the untold stories of orphanages, a system that's harming the very children we believe it protects, and how you can choose to be part of the solution. The film features the voices of several care leavers, including Ruth and Samora, who tell their stories of growing up in orphanages in Kenya and the work they are doing now to ensure children remain in families.

CELCIS and SOS Children’s Villages International partnered to work on a European Commission funded project, 'Prepare for Leaving Care,' in five countries – Croatia , Italy , Latvia , Lithuania and Spain . The aim of the project has been to strengthen the capacity of professionals from government and non-governmental organisations that hold responsibility for supporting young people leaving their formal alternative care placement. This has been achieved by developing and implementing innovative training for care professionals working directly with young people leaving care. Young experts, aged 16-27, from all five participating countries provided input throughout all activities, drawing on their personal experience and the challenges they faced while preparing to leave care.

On 15 November 2018, the final meeting of the 'Prepare for Leaving Care' project was held in Brussels, attended by the participating young people, project partners and coordinators and other guests to explore the results of the project. The meeting was co-facilitated by the young experts. The young people involved in the project shared their recommendations with more than 60 representatives of governments, NGOs, youth welfare services and universities at the final project roundtable in Brussels. 

This Practice Guidance, developed by SOS Children’s Villages International and CELCIS, seeks to promote improvements in practice that should have a positive impact for young people during and after the leaving care process. The contents of this Practice Guidance are in good part informed by a detailed Scoping exercise that was carried out in each of the five countries participating in this project: Croatia , Italy , Latvia , Lithuania and Spain .

This publication from SOS Children's Villages and CELCIS describes the two-year project 'Prepare for Leaving Care,' which aimed to "embed a child rights based culture into child protection systems which improves outcomes for children and young people in particular in the preparation for leaving care," with youth participation at the heart of all activities.

In this documentary episode from Channel 4 in the UK , poet and playwright (and careleaver), Lemn Sissay, meets seven young people who are in the care of their council and sets out to help them express their experiences through words and perform them to a packed theatre of decision-makers.

This podcast episode from the Faith to Action Initiative features an interview with Peter Kamau, Founding Partner of Child in Family Focus – Kenya , about his experience growing up in an orphanage.

Other Resources on Leaving Care

The aim of this report from SOS Children's Villages is to increase the knowledge and understanding of the needs and rights of young people aging out of alternative care around the world , in order to inform strategies, policies and services to improve their life chances and outcomes through appropriate preparation for leaving care as well as after-care support.

This rapid review from Coram Voice contributes to the understanding of UK care leavers’ experiences and is also the first stage in a project to develop a survey of care leavers’ subjective well-being, according to young people’s own evaluations of how they feel about their lives.

This article from the journal of Emerging Adulthood describes and compares the Not in Employment, Education, or Training (NEET) and Education, Employment, and Training (EET) status of care leavers from Girls and Boys Town in South Africa after 1 and 2 years and in relation to other outcomes.

This study from Children and Youth Services Review aimed to review and analyze the pathways from care to education and employment, using meta-analysis.

This book reviews changes in policy and practices that affected the generation of young people who grew up in state care in China in the last 20 years. These insights, combined with analysis of national state care datasets and policy documents, provide answers to questions about the impact of different types of alternative care on young people’s experiences, the impact on their identity and their capacity to live independently, finding a job, a home and relationships.

This paper from Children and Youth Services Review examines the longer term outcomes of young people who experienced out of home care (OHC) as children, in Britain , Germany and Finland , countries characterised by different welfare regimes. 

This article from the Children and Youth Services Review draws on data from the only longitudinal study on care-leaving in South Africa . It uses resilience theory to explain the differences observed in independent living outcomes of care-leavers, one year after leaving the residential care of Girls and Boys Town. 

This study from the journal of Emerging Adulthood shares positive stories of care leavers and explores the factors that promote the successful transition to emerging adulthood for care leavers in Ghana .  

This paper from the International Journal of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies discusses the results of a qualitative study on adult care leavers in Flanders ( Belgium ). The article focuses on the identity (and identity changes) of care leavers to explore the process of psychological transition to adulthood.

This paper from Children and Youth Services Review advocates for use of the life course perspective as a guiding research paradigm when investigating the educational experiences of adult care leavers, drawing on a case example from an ongoing PhD study of the educational experiences of adult care leavers in Ireland to highlight the value of applying a life course perspective to this issue.

This article from Child & Family Social Work examines the care experiences of former looked‐after children from a residential care setting in South Africa .

This six-part video series provides an overview of the US National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) and the NYTD Review, a federal review conducted by the Children’s Bureau to assess how states collect and report data on youth transitioning out of foster care. 

The aim of this review from the Children and Youth Services Review was to gather, assess and synthesize the current empirical evidence of transition to adult life from the perspective of young people leaving foster care.

This short document from CELCIS provides a summary of initial learning from data gathered for an evaluation of the Why Not? initiative in Scotland . The Why Not? initiative within Care Visions services was started in 2014 to ‘improve the way young people are supported when aging out of care, by offering a different experience of relationships beyond care.’

Through this study from the Children and Youth Services Review , data were collected through interviews with 23 care leavers in Ghana to examine their challenges and the factors that influence their coping mechanisms.

The study presented in this article from the Children and Youth Services Review analyzed the life stories of 16 care leavers in Israel .

Drawing on data from the Wales Adoption Study, this paper from Children and Youth Services Review examines the prevalence and profiles of care leavers amongst birth parents whose children were placed for adoption.

This doctoral dissertation by Tara Callen of Columbia University was an ethnographic narrative study tracking eight young women who were “aging out” or forced to leave their orphanage in Peru , where most of them had spent a majority of their lives. The study examined the way in which a collaborative art community could support the participants as they narrated their lives over a 16-month period of time through photojournaling and social media outlets.

The goals of this study from Children and Youth Services Review are to examine the association between childhood adversity and adult functioning among youth aging out-of-care in Israel , and to explore how attributes of their social support networks mediate this association.

This article from Emerging Adulthood focuses on the concept of “family” and family membership from the perspective of care leavers in Zimbabwe .

This article from the International Journal of Population Data Science describes a 10-year study in Canada that used linked population based data from the Manitoba Population Research Data Repository to compare children in the custody of CFS who turned 18 during the study to children not in custody.

Drawing on data from a small qualitative study carried out in four child and youth care centres in a town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa , this article from Children and Youth Services Review argues that possible selves methods provide a useful tool with which to unpack the content of future focus, and in doing so identify contributors to resilience in care-leavers. 

This briefing paper from the UK House of Commons provides general background on the development of Government policies to support care leavers, and existing support available in key areas such as: social services; housing; education and training; health services; and the social security system.

This study from the Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma assesses psychological well-being, risk, and resilience of US youth currently in-care and former foster youth and how preparation for independent living affects these factors.

The goal of this article from the Children and Youth Services Review is to analyze the characteristics and experiences of youths in Spain when they leave care and their first years in transition from foster care to adulthood.

This is small-scale study from the Community Academic Research Links (CARL) project examines the experiences of Aged-Out Unaccompanied Minors (UAMs) who transition from foster care into Direct Provision (DP) in Ireland .

This paper from Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk reports on findings from an evaluation study of two institutions providing transition programmes to adolescent girls transitioning from institutional care in Zimbabwe .

In this article from the International Conference of Society Health and Welfare trajectories of child and youth transitions from institutional care in Latvia – moving from family care to institutional care, life in institution(s), and the transition from institution to independent adult life – are discussed.

This article from Children & Society re‐examines data from an evaluation of a volunteering project for care leavers in the UK . The findings support the importance of regular face‐to‐face contact and co‐production for young people to become creators of their own social capital.

This Annie E. Casey Foundation brief, which utilizes the most comprehensive data set ever collected across all 50 states of the US , fills in key details about the lives of young people who have experienced foster care. In no uncertain terms, the data describe how youth in foster care are falling behind their general population peers and on track to face higher levels of joblessness and homelessness as adults.

Understanding the Situation

This thirteenth issue of the  South African Child Gauge® focuses on children in relation to families and the state, both of which are central to providing for children and supporting their development. This book features chapters reviewing recent developments in law and policy affecting children and others regarding children's household living arrangements, negotiating the care of children and support to caregivers, stopping family violence, and more.

This report from SNAICC - National Voice for our Children examines what Australian governments are doing to turn the tide on the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of-home care, and the outcomes for children and their families. This year’s report is solutions-focussed, highlighting the way forward for positive change. 

Related Topics: Foster Care
The objective of this article from South African Society on the Abuse of Children (SAPSAC) is to present a portrait of the baby factory phenomenon in Nigeria . The precipitating factors that fuel the trade are discussed, and suggestions for an enduring approach to combat this crime are offered.

This report from the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) has two aims: (1) examine how well African governments are delivering on their promises and commitments to children and (2) provide a comprehensive, quantitative and qualitative view of the current realities and trends in the state of child wellbeing in Africa, and their implications for the future.

The aim of this study from Child Abuse & Neglect is to examine associations between signs of reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED) and social functioning in children with a history of institutional rearing in early adolescence in Romania .

The purpose of this literature review from the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action is to synthesize evidence on the prevalence, patterns and impacts of child neglect in humanitarian contexts.

Using a qualitative research design, this study from International Social Work explored 28 Practitioners’ and parents’ narratives on the perception and causes of child neglect in Ghana .

Related Topics: Child Abuse and Neglect
Policies, Standards, and Guidelines
In this chapter of the  International Human Rights  book series, children’s rights and state obligations in relation to alternative care are presented, with reference to the UN Alternative Care Guidelines and the general comments and concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Australia Passes Modern Slavery Bill
The Australian Government passed the Modern Slavery Bill on 30 November 2018. This makes Australia the first country to recognise orphanage trafficking and exploitation in orphanages as a form of modern slavery. The Act creates a requirement for large entities who support orphanages through their operations or supply chains to assess and report on risks relating to modern slavery, including orphanage tourism. This monumental win has been achieved thanks in large part to the commitment and efforts of Assistant Minister Senator Linda Reynolds as well as the tireless advocacy of  ReThink Orphanages Australia  and other partners.

This briefing note from ACCI Missions & Relief has been written to give Australian charities and churches currently engaging with overseas residential care institutions an overview of the issue of orphanage trafficking and an understanding of how to ensure any overseas funding and volunteering supports the best interests of children in line with national and international legal frameworks.

In this paper from the Journal of Human Rights and Social Work , the urgent need to strengthen the child protection system in India is presented in the context of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme and relevant juvenile justice legislation. Although the whole system is discussed, from national to local levels, the emphasis is on systems development with a comprehensive social work education response. 

This Manual from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sets the minimum standards and policies for the protection and care of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) within a foster care arrangement in Malaysia .

Learning from Practice

This volume, edited by Charles H. Zeanah, Jr., examines typical and atypical development from birth to the preschool years and identifies what works in helping children and families at risk.

Related Topics: Child Development

The Treatment and Care for Kids (TrACK) program is a therapeutic home-based care program providing intensive intervention for children and young people with complex needs in Australia . Its original ambition was to provide an evidence-informed and cost effective alternative pathway to entering into or moving out of residential care for children and young people with complex needs and challenging behavior. The findings of this evaluation demonstrate that TrACK produces tangible and lasting results for children.

This report from CELCIS is the evaluation of the pilot partnership agreement between Police Scotland and local authorities, for responses to children and young people missing from foster and residential care.

Related Topics: Residential Care, Foster Care
Through a qualitative survey, this study from Santé Publique aimed at evaluating the effect of the implementation of the French Ministry of Health's PRADO program over the Maternal and child protection services (“PMI”) structure and home visitation intervention.

In this issue, we highlight the care-related Concluding Observations adopted by the  Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  at its  20th session  held
27 August - 21 September 2018, with a particular focus on sections addressing children's care.
Click below to read the Country Care Reviews for the following countries:

A panel event on orphanage trafficking was held at Thomson Reuters Foundation's Trust Conference 2018 on 14 November 2018. This video captures the discussions of that event, including a statement from one young care leaver from Nepal who told her story of being institutionalized, as well as stories from other care leavers.

12 December 2018
15 December 2018
29 January - 2 February 2019
Kisumu, Kenya
12 March 2019
Glasgow, Scotland
1-5 April 2019
Preston, UK
8-10 May 2019
Louisville, Kentucky, USA
27-29 August 2019
Tartu, Estonia
15 December 2018
30 December 2018
1 January 2019
No deadline given
No deadline given

Newsletter participants, currently 4,208 in total, work on issues related to the care and support of vulnerable children across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. The purpose of the newsletter is to enable members to exchange information on matters of mutual concern. If you would like to share a document, raise a specific issue, request a newsletter subscription, or reach out in any other way to the Network, please send the information to us at  or visit our website at  

Thank you!

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