“A picture emerges of young people as strong agents in their own lives. Half of the participants were employed or studied at a secondary school and even at higher education level. So, there are good stories and stories of possibilities, too,” Mattias Bengtsson says.
Must be allowed to be key players in their own lives
The study shows that a precondition is that there are positive adult role models with whom young people can connect. These adults need to really listen to them and make them feel involved.
“If someone else is making all the decision in your own life, you will give up in the end. Being allowed to be a key player in your own life makes you grow and helps you in becoming an adult.”
The study made clear that young people who have been encouraged to see themselves as someone with agency when making plans for their own future seem to do quite well.
If that was the case, they were able to navigate and build good relations with the social services or the employment services, but also to navigate away from harmful relationships. Moreover, these young people proved that they could maintain the professional relationships with the foster parent or the HVB home by transforming them into family-like relationships when the care was over.
Sweden at the bottom of the class
Sweden does not have a good support structure for young people who leave out-of-home care. Our Nordic neighbours have support programmes that last until young people turn 22 or 23, and England and Spain have special support teams that work with this group before, but also after, the period of care.
“In Sweden, you are discharged when you turn 18 and there is virtually no such support. There is a lot of anxiety when they are about to leave the home: “Will the support just disappear now, will I become homeless?’”
“Wish they were asked if they need support”
Mattias Bengtsson wishes that all these young people were asked if they need support and suggest that the skilled youth workers in our municipalities were given the opportunity to continue to work with this group.
“It is tough for all young people today, but this particular group can’t rely on the parental generation to be supportive. Many of them were placed in care exactly because things didn't work out at home,” Mattias Bengtsson says.
Text: Douglas Öhrbom