Growing up is difficult, and even more so for children from foster homes and institutions. Research shows that these children have far fewer resources and people to rely upon once they outgrow the child welfare services, compared to their peers.
According to the law in Norway, children from institutions and foster care are entitled to aftercare until they turn 23. The aim of these programs is to assist in the transition to adulthood, and to offer support in the everyday challenges of finding a home, studying and starting a new life.
However, the research conducted shows very few of these young people get the help they are entitled to. Most of the recipients of aftercare were 18–19 years old. While many of those interviewed said they felt “everyone disappears from their lives at once”, not all of them were aware of the services available or how to access them. A new law has been proposed to make aftercare mandatory for everyone under the age of 25, but sceptics question the feasibility of this proposal.
“It's awesome. But is it just symbolic? We’ve just looked at the statistics going way back and found that very few 22-year-olds get aftercare now. What makes us think that suddenly so many more will receive aftercare if the law changes?” Elisabeth Backe-Hansen asks, leading a research project in this field. This is especially relevant knowing the challenges staff tasked with providing aftercare face, including a lot of turnover and reorganization. This can have an enormous effect on the quality of their work, since it takes time to build trustworthy relationship with a child and these kind of changes can significantly undermine the whole process and outcome.
As part of the project Elisabeth Backe-Hansen has been leading, researchers at OsloMet talked to the young people that managed to successfully transition into adulthood. According to the article “against all odds, some of these young adults have navigated that journey successfully. They don’t have that different a background or child welfare history than children who don’t fare so well, the researchers say. What does distinguish them is that they experienced school as a sanctuary and have consistently been good at school”.