Care leavers: the expertise of experience

Care leavers: the expertise of experience

In April, SOS Children’s Villages Italy concluded the training “Preparing for Autonomy” carried out in the cities of Florence and Prato with a total of 34participants, including social workers and educators. The entire training focused on the right to participation and in particular the second phase was structured to include as co-trainers two girls who had left alternative care .

The training had a twofold value: it was for the participants – the educators and social workers – an opportunity to learn much more about the experiences of care leavers and for the young care leavers it was a valuable opportunity for empowerment. The intensity of their storytelling had a powerful emotional impact on the participants, and gave substance to the two envisaged objectives of growth: towards those who are trained but also for those who train.

The young people involved in the training were present both as experts and as representatives of the entire community of care leavers. By sharing thier collective and personal experiences gathered throughout the training, the educators and care leavers went beyond simply listening: they were able to go one step further in terms of re-elaboration of experiences, facilitation of a reflection process and ability to set training goals.

The participation of co-trainers with experience living in and leaving the alternative care that characterised this second phase of the project  CarINg training is the result of long-term work carried out by SOS Children’s Villages. The group of care leavers who co-led the training was in fact created a year before its involvement in the project activities precisely in order to foster the mutual knowledge and harmony of the training team. The group was supported in its ability to train the professionals involved in the alternative care system by a participation facilitator, whose role was recognised by the young people and who was of fundamental support in situations with a high emotional burden. The facilitator has been involved also in preparation of project CarINg activties, in particular he helped the young care leavers in the preparatory phase and in managing the emotions triggered by the meeting with the operators.

“We are not just talking about theory, we are talking about experiences, and these experiences are real and authentic; that is why it is essential to put experts by experience alongside experts by profession. Our story is the most precious thing we have: if we succeed with the young people in enhancing the growth aspects within a story, we trigger a mechanism that is generative for everyone.”

Fabrizio Pedron, SOS Children’s Villages participation expert and participation facilitator in the “Preparation for Autonomy” training


On the occasion of the “Care Leavers Day”, the national day for care leavers promoted by the association Agevolando, ARCO, SOS Children’s Villages Italy and all the partners of the CarINg project want to reiterate the importance of involving young people with out-of-home care experience in all the contexts that concern them, including training contexts, and to recognise once again the value of the competence that each care leaver brings with him/her.

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