Each year, in Kenya, thousands of children and young people leave care, the majority from children’s homes/ orphanages, called charitable children’s institutions. They are placed or exited to unfamiliar environments in communities. Many have described life beyond care as “strange” “unfamiliar” “scary” and “new world”- it is a new environment for many, with new relationships and new challenges to navigate and adjust to. The common experience is that of feeling abandoned, rejected and unsupported by the government, communities and the very organizations that had promised to provide care and protection.
These challenges are compounded by adverse childhood experiences that pushed them to alternative care in the first place, which include all types of abuse, neglect and abandonment, conflict in the family, parental substance use, being connected with the streets, conflict with the law and incarceration, and domestic violence. For some, families made very difficult decisions to place them in someone else’s care because they thought they would get access to school or other services. These experiences, which are often not addressed by the time they are leaving care can multiply their trauma and impact their life opportunities as adults. With little or no support some are left to fend without connections and disillusioned; many struggle to make ends meet, to find housing or employment, and others experience all manner of psychological and socio-emotional challenges.
Additionally, some, as a result of inadequate life skills; struggle with interpersonal relationships, basic budgeting, low self-confidence, poor communication skills, inadequate problem-solving skills, communication skills, decision-making challenges, poor self-awareness, and inability to cope with stress. As a society, we exist to change their life trajectories, provide peer-to-peer support; we educate and inform communities about alternative care, and policymakers about how to help not just children in care but also young adults coming out of care to grow up in safe, supportive and stable communities.