Monday April 15th, 2024 ARCO

CarINg, the wellbeing of care leavers in protection systems

care leavers children alternative care sistemi di tutela carINg

CarINg – Empowering child care systems and supporting leaving care from within – is an action-research project whose protagonists are boys and girls living outside their family of origin. The project aims to support boys and girls leaving the care system – care leavers – in building a life project and gaining autonomy. The activities were led by the Inclusive Development Unit (as ARCO is project leader) with the participation of the Municipality of Prato, the University of Milan Bicocca, SOS Children’s Villages Italy and the Prato Area Health Society. The project was co-financed by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (REC) of the European Union

CarINg aims at helping girls and boys in the alternative care system become protagonists of their own future by making them feel part of a welcoming community


While many young people continue to live with their parents until their 20s and 30s, care leavers suddenly find themselves outside the care system, without a family safety net or a secure base (neither economic nor emotional) to face the transition to adulthood on their own.

Data show that care leavers are a population group more at risk than others with respect to social exclusion dynamics, as they experience greater difficulties in constructing their own identity and acquiring skills useful for social and work integration.

Local protection systems are fundamental to prevent future scenarios of poverty and social exclusion of care leavers, and in recent years there has been an increased attention to this issue. In Italy, thanks to the tireless work of many organisations – including Agevolando, SOS Villaggi dei Bambini – the national Care leavers Experimentation was set up, promoted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies and implemented in collaboration with the Istituto degli Innocenti.

The CarINg project aims to further strengthen local care systems by giving centrality and prominence to boys and girls leaving the care system so that they have the space and tools to desire and build a future well before they come of age



  • Increasing the participation of care leavers and future care leavers and their ability to influence their lives
  • Providing tailor-made training for female professionals
  • Stimulating the community to network around the needs and aspirations of boys and girls leaving the care system.



Project activities

All activities focus on the promotion of the agency and participation of boys and girls leaving the care system as key elements for the formulation of an autonomy pathway towards adulthood and the exit from the protection, foster care and out-of-home care systems.

The project actively involves institutions, Job Centres, Youth Centres, enterprises, financial institutions, associations in order to create a network around care leavers that can facilitate their exit from the protection systems.

The activities conducted are:

  • analysis of foster families’ needs
  • social services needs analysis
  • training of social workers and educators
  • emancipatory research with care leavers through consultation activities and participatory production of a video
  • quantitative research on the well-being of boys and girls leaving the care system
  • conducting the Autonomy Workshop for care leavers to enhance skills in: participation, financial literacy, labour market entry, sexual and reproductive health
  • co-creation of a digitised application for measuring the well-being, participation and autonomy of boys and girls leaving the care system
  • participation in the annual care leavers’ meeting in Roccaporena organised by Agevolando
  • Participatory construction of guidelines to improve the protection system

The role of emancipatory research in CarINg

The CarINg project contributed to the strengthening of participatory practices in the protection systems of the two areas through a variety of initiatives with professionals and care leavers. In particular, a group of  care leavers was involved in an emancipatory research: an important activity of the project that allowed for the consolidation and concretisation of the minors’ right to participation.

Emancipatory research represents a particular type of action research, aimed at investigating the dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion from the perspective of individuals with specific vulnerabilities. It places people belonging to marginalised groups, in CarINg’s case care leavers, at the centre of the knowledge production process, providing them with the essential skills and tools to collect and analyse data.

In this context, research has a twofold value: on the one hand, it generates new knowledge on the participation of care leavers in protection systems; on the other hand, the involvement of care leavers in an empowerment process resulting in the strengthening of control over the processes that directly involve them, promoting social change and inclusive policies.

The emancipatory research consisted of three main phases:

Participatory needs assessment: Care leavers were involved in consultation activities where they were invited to reflect on their life experiences within the care system, discuss Nussbaum’s capabilities and explore the meaning of participation.

CarINg care leavers emancipatoria emancitpatory ricerca giovani tutela

Participatory audiovisual product: care leavers were involved in the production of a participatory video. This enabled them to regain their voices, build a collective narrative and build self-confidence. Furthermore, they were able to develop technical skills and improve relationships with their peers and foster families.

Co-design of evaluation and monitoring tools: After involvement in the video and consultations, the group was involved in the co-design of evaluation and monitoring tools together with the social workers. This enabled them to define monitoring indicators that reflected their needs and promoted greater participation and accountability to services.

Want to know more?
Download and read CarINg final leaflet (in Italian)

Guarda il video “La voce dei Care Leavers” che racconta il percorso della ricerca emancipatoria condotto con un gruppo di ragazzi e ragazze che hanno partecipato a CarINg

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