Care leavers, young people living residential communities or to foster care operated by the Municipality of Florence and the Health Society of the Prato Area, are the main actors of CarINg action-research. The participatory process, in which they have been involved between October and December 2021, was articulated in 4 consultation meetings conducted by the University of Milan-Bicocca and the NGO SOS Villaggi dei Bambini Italia.
The participants were divided into two groups, the first composed of 8 care leavers coming from different social contexts of the territories of Prato and Florence and the second of 10 other care leavers coming from both public and hetero-familial foster care facilities of the two municipalities.
Each group held two consultation meetings during which the young care leavers, with the support of facilitators, had the opportunity to discuss and reflect on the meanings of participation in decision-making and in the creation of their own life project.
The first meeting had two objectives: on the one hand to build the sense of the group and explain the CarINg project to the boys and girls involved; on the other hand to explore what it means to participate in decisions that affect their lives. The second activity had a more creative slant, in fact, through a playful-artistic language the participants made collages on the concept of participation.
During the second meeting, participants had the opportunity to better understand what are the real possibilities of participation that can be experienced within the system of protection and decision-making processes related to daily choices and their life project. Reflection was enabled by the sharing of experiences, memories, knowledge and a biographical collection of the participants regarding their own experience outside the family. To encourage sharing, a game of the goose was used, inspired by ‘The Game of Life‘ (D. Demetrio), co-designed together with the care leavers.
On this occasion, the two groups also had the opportunity to discuss Martha Nussbaum’s 10 skills and identified, through personal and then collective reflection, which of these skills are most important in their life projects.
M. Nussbaum’s capacities are a list of conditions considered necessary to make a life worth living. These include: life, physical health, physical integrity, senses, imagination and thought, feelings, practical reason, belonging, other species, play, and control of one’s environment.
The consultation meetings allowed care leavers to begin to reflect on the concept of participation through the collages they made, to try to understand if and how they are able in practice to participate in the decisions that affect them, and then to develop, together with the facilitators, operational advice. The operational advice and the final recommendations give voice to the reflections of the care leavers and their needs within the protection system and constitute the starting point for the subsequent phases of the project.