Convention Concept Note
Care Leavers, are young people, who have lived in alternative care as children and exited from there at the age of maturity, mostly 18 years. Having lived in a highly protected and controlled environment and experiencing significant trauma during childhood, they find it difficult to transition from living in a protective child care setting to independent living. This is often accentuated due to the absence of a pivotal supportive ecosystem around them, leaving them with little confidence, low self-agency and lacking in basic life skills and limited career opportunities. Having experienced lack of permanency in their lives as children, these young people go through immense mental stress. Because of their unique situation, Care Leavers are seen as one of the most vulnerable youth in society, who needs extra care and support at the individual, collective, societal as well as national and international level.
The Organizing Committee (OC) comprising of Udayan Care (India), SOS Children’s Villages, University of Hildesheim (Germany), Kinderperspectief (Netherlands) came together to convene an international first ever in-person convention in India in March 2020. With support from various organizations, Care Leavers’ networks and partners, all preparations were completed and almost 300 participants had enrolled with over 100 Care Leavers from 25 countries. Unfortunately, the exceptional situation, caused by the COVID-19, made it unsafe to congregate people from different countries under one roof. Keeping in mind the safety and health of all participants and on the basis of the advisory issued by the nodal ministries in India, the Organizing Committee had no choice but to postpone the convention temporarily.
The Organising Committee stands committed to facilitating young people with care experience, globally, to come together in the safe spaces of the conference platform to share, learn and gain from each other’s, policy makers’, and service providers’ experiences on the issues related to Aftercare and also in the light of COVID, so as to develop informed suggestions to inform policy making and service provisioning.
The sustained engagement post the postponement of the convention
The COVID-19 pandemic only further exacerbated the risks of Care Leavers across the globe and most of them have experienced increased risks of isolation, trauma, discontinuation or stopping of education and learning opportunities, limited livelihoods and career chances and loss of employment, for those who could find a job with difficulty. Many of them have suffered financial losses, been thrown out of their rented accommodation and their day to day basic needs were not fulfilled because they lacked the essential legal identity papers that could link them to the social protection measures in their countries. But there is a silver lining in every crisis, and the crisis offered several windows of opportunities too; such as virtually connecting young people across countries and regions. The Organising Committee closely observed the developments from March to August and continued to virtually meet and to engage with the Care Leavers transnationally. A landscape survey followed a series of virtual meetings to engage with young care experienced people globally to develop the Declaration on their needs around COVID-19, helped to set the gaps as perceived by them, thus setting forth a set of recommendations to mitigate their risks. The process showed how the Care Leavers from different countries experienced similar challenges during the crisis and the virtual connection provided them psychosocial support and resiliency by connecting with each other and voicing their concerns. The process also showed that young people have the power to find their own solutions and inform the service provision and policy development locally as well as internationally. The Organising Committee thus, strengthened by this process, decided to create a virtual platform to bring Care Leavers from different countries together, with active support from organisations, young people and networks of Care Leavers. The Committee also believes that this is the starting point of a journey that has to evolve with collective action and collaboration from different stakeholders and most importantly the young persons’ themselves. Hence, the International Care Leavers Convection, 2020 in a virtual format!
Opportunity for the virtual convention
The Declaration developed by international Care leavers with facilitation from the Organizing Committee of Convention has clearly shown that bringing them together at this time of the crisis has only become more urgent and imperative. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the vulnerabilities of Care Leavers across the globe and the isolation, separation from peers and friends, loss of jobs and educational opportunities, threat of secured and affordable homes and interruption of their skilling opportunities, as explained in the Declaration made by them and for themselves, has also meant that we need to invest in them and bring them together in the best possible way. Even during times of crisis, there are opportunities to learn and re-look at the scope of work with positivity. This has been an often shared emotion of Care Leavers. A few other things
commonly heard from the Care Leavers are as follows:
• The Convention is only the starting point to come together and it is not a one-time activity but something that has to be sustained and nurtured continuously.
• The engagement plan with Care Leavers must be planned in a way that brings maximum young people together and technology can aid to this by a great extent.
• The need to come together is global and existing networks of Care Leavers are equally excited and willing to contribute and support the process
• The virtual platform provides an opportunity to expand the reach and yet achieve depth. It allows for more participation while cutting down the cost to travel and boarding lodging.
• The bringing together of Care Leavers globally will mitigate some of the emotional and connect loss they had experienced during the crisis and motivate and inspire them towards resiliency.
• The virtual Convention allows huge opportunity for media outreach and advocacy, with social media playing an enabling role.
The key objective of the convention is to connect Care Leavers internationally and enable their coming together on a common and safe platform to learn, share and exchange their experiences, knowledge and challenges. It also desires to empower them through various interface sessions with service providers, researchers and policy makers working with and for Care Leavers. The Convention enables Care Leavers to advocate and amplify their voices and attract the attention of decision makers to act upon their recommendations through betterment of the policy and practice related to them.
Free will and respect for youth dignity is the underlying principle that informs the Convention, which believes in “nothing for us without us” and is supported by Care Leavers under the facilitation of the Organizing Committee.
The Virtual Plan – October to December 2020
• The event website will be set up by the end of September 2020 and will carry details of the event, speakers, organizers, sponsors, pre-events and a resource center (Articles, Blogs, Downloadable (Best practices, research content)
• The three-month plan from October to December 2020 has been conceptualized as a series of engagement activities and not as any one-time event. The key idea is to facilitate and offer a platform for Care Leavers from different countries to share their voices.
• The Convention will be delivered on a virtual platform over three days from November 23-25, 2020, with sessions taking place between 1.30 pm to 3.30pm IST. The Convention virtual platform aim is to design a virtual experience that is as close to being physically connected as possible.
• The virtual convention will be preceded by a series of engagement activities with Care Leavers across the globe such as online polls, video and poster making sessions, and research based webinars.
• Partnerships with more aftercare service providers, Care Leaver networks, research organizations, practitioners and international agencies working on aftercare and leaving care will be explored during the period leading up to the actual convention
Support sought from partners
A. Financial support for the convention: Support partly the convention costs (budget can be shared on request). Needless to say, the sponsors’ logos will be displayed on the convention website as well as on Convention branding and back drop.
B. Technical Support: Join us in one or more ways as suggested below:
a. Knowledge Partner: Share database and connections with care leavers and organizations working with and for care leavers, research groups on care leaving, good models in this space
b. Confirm attendance of partner organizations during the 3 month engagement
c. Offer resource persons, speakers and facilitators, who are able to identify and prepare care leavers to speak up and share their voices at different sessions
d. Offer to conduct or facilitate a particular session in line with the Convention agenda and schedule
e. Help spread the word to encourage Care Leavers from your state/country/network as part of the convention
f. Submit posters on good practices and research work on care leaving
The technical partners shall also be given the opportunity to display their logos on relevant space on website and virtual platform
C. Support from Policy makers:
a. Participate and contribute to the discussion, as a speaker / panelist
b. Encourage Govt. promoted CCIs and their supported Care Leavers to participate actively in the forum
c. Join as a partner for the Convention (official support from ministry)
The Organizing Committee (OC) looks forward to making this a collaborative journey in the best interest of Care Leavers. This is positioned as the beginning of like-minded people and organizations coming together at a global level.