What do we want to achieve by implementing the project?
It is well known that young people leaving care are disadvantaged compared to peers of the same age. They struggle to cope with the challenges and difficulties they encounter. Such challenges can eventually lead to social exclusion, long-term unemployment or involvement in risky behaviours. SKILLS4LIFE aims to support Care Leavers to improve their preparation for the transition to adulthood, using and building on their competences. It is about developing and practising the necessary skills, abilities and competences to feel prepared, integrated and accompanied.
Young people leaving care or caregiving are disadvantaged in many countries around the world compared to their peers without care. Statistically, they are often invisible. Without data documenting their particular circumstances and trajectories, it is almost impossible to quantify the problem and develop support interventions for a group of young people whose heightened support needs have been identified when they are under 18 years of age and therefore children. There is growing evidence that both cognitive and non-cognitive skills determine the social and economic success of young people and adults (Heckman et al., 2006; IYF, 2014). Indeed, life skills programmes enable adolescents and young adults to create a life plan and equip them with the skills to take steps towards achieving their goals. They also help young people to better understand healthy personal behaviour. In doing so, they help to strengthen young people’s self-esteem and expectations for the future (IYF, 2014; Ibarraran et al. 2012). Life skills are directly linked to preparation for autonomy and adulthood. Noom, Dekovic and Meeus (1999) established three levels of autonomy skills: The first is referred to as attitudinal and cognitive autonomy, which includes the ability to set goals and the ability to think about our own actions; functional or executive autonomy determines the ability to make decisions and develop strategies to achieve our goals; and finally, emotional autonomy, which occurs when there is confidence in defining specific goals independent of peer group opinions (Reichert & Wagner, 2007). In recent decades, the effects of globalisation and deindustrialisation have resulted in lengthening youth transitions. Fleming (2004) points out that the transition from adulthood is characterised as a profound paradox, as it enters young people’s lives with a delay and prevents them from reaching adulthood with established autonomy. This paradox has consequences in the form of tensions and conflicts – mainly at the social and family level. Moreover, during the process of seeking autonomy, young people’s relationships with peer groups change. Furthermore, the employment and financial instability of all countries in the consortium hinder the emancipation process of young people today (Gaspar & Gaspar, 2017). The specific needs of young people in terms of support for effective transition to adulthood are rarely the focus of social protection systems, even though failure to invest in youth can have long-term impacts on society. Therefore, the SKILLS 4LIFE project aims to support the development of transition to autonomy by promoting life skills with institutionalised young adults. The main target groups of the project are: a) social workers, community educators and adult educators; b) young adults in institutional settings or in alternative care.