Vistara: Integration of young people leaving the care system

The children raised at the Familia AMURTEL project have grown up – and as a result, AMURTEL has also had to evolve and develop strategies to assist our young adults in the process of becoming well-integrated into society.

The process begins from childhood, learning basic life skills by participating daily in household chores of cleaning, cooking, shopping, garden work.  The children were given the opportunity to make “contracts” by doing extra jobs in order to earn money to buy a particularly special item. These simple interventions help them to gradually develop a sense of responsibility.

One of the main lessons our young adults have taught us is that we must break up the tasks related to integration into smaller steps. Many are understandably anxious about the prospect of leaving the protected environment of the home and having to be independent, which can result in resistance. They are aware that they don’t have the same safety net that family often automatically provides.  In addition, the Romanian economy is such that many young people, even those that are highly qualified, remain unemployed.  Living costs are high compared to the wages that our kids will be able to access.

We understand that need for security – and recognize that most of them will need support that doesn’t just end at 18 years old – but that continues well into their 20s.  We recognize that most of the young people in our care, due to their background of abandonment and trauma have difficulty with transitions and adapting to new situations – and they simply need more time to get there.

We also see the value both in letting them experience life’s lessons directly – as well as offering safe, protected spaces for them to learn important life skills. It isn’t enough to simply tell them “Go look for a job.”  We have several examples of young adults that needed only minimal support, and have integrated well – so not everyone needs extra structured support. However, we have also developed transitional living and transitional work experiences for those that need to break down the process of integration into more manageable steps.  Through small successes, they gain confidence and are better prepared for the future.

In addition, we have two young adults with mental disabilities that will not be able to be fully independent. They require a supported living situation.  Thanks to the generosity of Verein Kinderheim Panatau in Switzerland, AMURTEL was able to purchase a village house right behind the children’s home and renovate it to be the home for these two adults, as well as with a few extra rooms for volunteers or guests.

In this way, they remain supported by AMURTEL Family, and can live a full, healthy life. It is unfortunate, but the Romanian state does not yet provide many options for such people, beyond psychiatric institutionalization or the streets.