Ryan was 9 when he was first temporarily removed from home and has been under the supervision of Youth Services ever since. “I then went back home after three weeks. That went well for a while, until I hit puberty. I was born as a girl and wanted to transition. My mother could not accept that and that caused a lot of arguments.”
Between shore and ship
He was placed in a chamber training center. “You had to cook there yourself and do the laundry, but there was supervision 24 hours a day.” Then the care facility where Ryan lived went bankrupt. “Because I had just turned 18, I fell between two stools. The care institution could not help me anymore. In fact, it came down to having to go back to my mother – which was not an option – or to end up on the street I was distraught and had no idea who to turn to.”
A former employee of the care institution and her partner took care of Ryan – who has autism and ADHD – for the first year and a half. That stopped when the couple broke up. “Then I became a couch sleeper. I stayed with friends and acquaintances for a year, moved from hot to her. I found that very stressful, because you don’t want to be a burden to others and I was always thinking about where I would go the next night. to sleep.” Because he did not have a permanent home address, he could not look for work or apply for benefits.
Ryan isn’t the only evicted youngster who got into trouble after turning 18. Research by Stichting Het Vergeten Kind among 176 young people placed in care shows that 98 percent did not consider themselves ready to move. Even so, about two-thirds of them had to leave the care facility when they became legal adults. One in five young people became homeless as a result.
Don’t stop again
The foundation wants municipalities’ duty of youth care to no longer end when young people turn 18, but to continue until it is ready or at least can be easily extended until the young people are 21 or 23 years old. An extension can now also be requested, but according to Het Vergeten Kind, this depends strongly on the municipality where they live.
Youth Care Netherlands also sees that municipalities are becoming increasingly reluctant to extend youth assistance. “Unfortunately, we recognize that,” says a spokesman. The sector organization would also like to see the age at which custodial persons receive youth care increased.
On average, Dutch young people leave home when they are 23, the spokesperson explains. “And those are young people with a network, education and a room: all certainties that young people do not have when they leave youth care. It would be good to extend that care and also offer these young people the opportunity to fall back on the care if you still can’t stand on your own two feet.”
Living in uncertainty
Ryan thinks it’s a good idea to extend the care for out-of-home care. “Then you at least know where you stand. If you’ve been through a lot like me, it’s hard to live in so much uncertainty.” Because Ryan was close to being homeless. “One day I couldn’t find a new place to sleep. I thought: I’m only 19. I can’t sleep somewhere on the street, can I?”
Through a street lawyer, an advocate for the homeless, he managed to get a place in a youth shelter. “I lived there for a year, until I got my own house.” Ryan has been living there for a year now, but it doesn’t feel like a home. “Because I’ve moved so many times, it takes me a long time to feel at home somewhere. My life is actually stable now that I have my own place and do volunteer work, but I still wonder how long it will take this time.”