Adolescents in child care facilities are forced to leave the facility when they reach the age of 18. They are provided with five million won from the government as selfreliance allowances, but nothing more. Regardless of the amount of money they receive, it is difficult for children who have been living in facilities to adapt to the freedom suddenly given to them.
The public started to focus on the aged-out children’s lives since the progression of the “Eighteen Adult Campaign,” a project led by the youth who have experienced aging-out.
Shin Seon, a campaigner in “Eighteen Adult Campaign,” said that lack of experience is what makes life outside the facility challenging for the children.
“I have never been to a bank while living in the nursery,” Shin said. “The teachers always withdrew money and received documents for me. When I became 18, I found myself not even knowing how to use online banking or how to pay the utility bills. Since there were no adults to ask for advice, I had to undergo endless trial and error for literally everything.”
Shin also pointed out the lack of counselors in counseling services. Even though the National Center for the Rights of the Child is currently carrying out a psychological support project, once children miss the application period, they must receive support in the following year.
Professor Jung Ick-joong from the Department of Social Welfare at Ewha, who has attended an open forum about the Shin Seon Project, shared his thoughts about the difficulties children face when they enter into society.
“Most people assume that housing and living expenses are the only difficulties youths face,” Jung said. “The crucial point that we need to focus on is the problem of creating and maintaining a relationship in the society. Their desire to have someone to discuss with at a depressing moment cannot be resolved for the time being.”
Jung emphasized the significance of long-term emotional support. “What they need is not temporary counseling from a random person, but someone whom they can continuously rely on. In social welfare terms, we call that person ‘case manager.’”
Adolescents discharged from residential care have been facing more difficulties in the aftermath of COVID-19. The pandemic is especially harsh for them since the current circumstances are not an exception to stay at the facilities.
Enactus, a social contribution business club in Ewha, started a project with a team named ‘‘Urihanjjok,’’ which means siding with the children. The project gathered attention as it took second place in the Social Impact Contest, a social welfare idea challenge hosted by a non-profit organization World Open Culture, winning a special prize from the National Pension Service.
The project gives children opportunities to plan, report on, and produce magazines themselves in order to generate the ability to lead a life alone. In this process, children can receive career education, career experience, and even practical experience, which help them grow into competitive members of society. In addition, the profit generated from sales is used to provide financial education for children in child care facilities.
“There are many businesses that sell shortterm donations using services such as crowd funding platforms these days,” Enactus said. “We had doubts if those donations are what the socially weak really need. We came to think of this team because all the members agreed on devising a business model that could provide practical and sustainable help to the adolescents, not only focusing on providing economic support.”
The three members of ‘‘Urihanjjok’’ also shared their thoughts about the current circumstances affecting the adolescents leaving facilities. They expressed their regret to children who inevitably have to leave the facility despite the COVID-19 crisis.
“It would be effective to delay the dismissal period of the children and give them a grace period until they find a safe place to live,” they said. They suggested that the government should increase the amount of self-reliance settlement funds given to children, if not possible.
“We hope children discharged from residential care can fully demonstrate their dreams and talents throughout the activity,” ‘‘Urihanjjok’’ concluded.