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Finding a job, stable social relationships, acceptance by society: it is a challenge for many young people worldwide. For vulnerable young people who leave institutional care, like foster parents or SOS villages, this is often even more difficult. Researchers from the University of Amsterdam studied the social exclusion of vulnerable youth and found they might positively value the years of care when education was in reach, but still experience stigmatization and exclusion due to their care background.

The research project was commissioned by SOS Children's Villages with the aim to understand the mechanisms behind the social exclusion and self-exclusion of vulnerable youth in six different countries: Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Indonesia, Guatemala & the Netherlands. The research was conducted by Nicky Pouw and Katie Hodgkinson at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Amsterdam.

Pouw and Hodgkinson talked with 340 young people - SOS youths, young people from other (informal) care institutions and vulnerable youth at risk of losing parental care- in the six countries. When asked about their social lives, stigmatization, the feeling of being treated differently, having trouble making independent decisions or having the idea of ​​not being well prepared  were often their responses. Such feelings of exclusion limit their active participation in society.

Research results

The results of the study show that the multiple transitions through care and thus the care background is the main driver behind these feelings of stigmatization and social exclusion. Other important factors that weigh in are ethnicity, age, gender and religion. The project contributes to the global debate on the social exclusion of vulnerable youth.

This category of youth is still outside the scope and statistics of SOS Children's Villages and most other organizations and institutions. Yet, they deserve attention since they seem to suffer from psychological problems and face constrained opportunities later on in life when seeking higher education, employment, or access to social and professional networks.


The full report can be found here

There is also a more detailed country report for each of the 6 countries where the research took place.

The research was carried out in the programme group Governance and Inclusive Development.

Dr. N.R.M. (Nicky) Pouw

Nicky Pouw