Thematic Interest Groups (Global INTRAC Meeting 2020)

The 2020 Global INTRAC Meeting took place online on 31 August and 1 September 2020, instead in Zürich as originally planned, because the Covid-19 lockdown travel restrictions. The sessions were recorded and are provided here as a record and for those who were unable to attend the meeting.

A total of 187 people signed up for the meeting, representing 40 countries from around the globe. Approximately 90-100 people were online with the meeting at any point in time – we’re not sure how many individuals actually participated in the thematic interest groups. 42% of participants were based in Europe, 25% in Africa, 22% in North America, 6% in Australia and 5% in Asia.

During the second day (1 September 2020), we broke out into 13 subgroups for focused, though usually informal, discussions on a specific facet of care leaving research. Here are the topics:

  1. Aftercare and extended care
  2. COVID-19
  3. Disabled care-leavers
  4. Education and employment
  5. Gender differences in leaving care
  6. Life course perspective
  7. Longitudinal research
  8. Mental health and well-being
  9. Policy and legislation
  10. Preparation for leaving care
  11. Refugee youth
  12. Resilience
  13. Romantic relationships, marriage and parenting of care-levers

For each of these we provide the names of the facilitators, a text summary of their discussion and a video of their discussion. Not all groups were able to provide everything, so what is here is what we have.

Aftercare and extended care

Facilitated by Inger Oterholm (VID Specialized University, Norway) & Philip Mendes (Monash University, Australia)

The group used the time to share information about the leaving care system including particularly aftercare or extended care supports, and some research in 7 different countries: Australia, Zambia, Ireland, Belgium, Japan, Switzerland and Norway. The participants represented both researchers and practitioners, such as NGOs working with care leavers. Although we represented countries from across the globe, we found a lot of similar challenges pertaining to advancing and improving legislation and policies concerning aftercare and the potential for extended care. In several countries, there has been an increased focus on supporting care leavers. But still, it is often the situation that youth do not receive the support needed, and many are not able to access aftercare support. Some countries also have major internal policy differences depending on specific jurisdictions.


Facilitated by Mariana Incarnato (Doncel, Argentina) and Emily Munro (University of Bedfordshire, UK)

4 participants attended the meeting.

The discussion was around the effects of COVID-19 on care leavers and workers in the system.

Mariana Incarnato introduced the main results of a study developed in Argentina in the context of COVID-19 within the care system:

  • During the last 6 months we have developed a series of courses aimed at helping the personnel of the residential care system and young people against COVID-19 in Latin America.
  • A total of 9 courses was held with almost 450 participants from 10 countries.
  • Within the group of workers, a survey was carried out with questions on the main emergencies that they identified in their residence against the COVID-19
  • The responses in most cases highlighted two priorities: access to technology and sufficient personnel.
  • Also in Argentina, a sequence of meetings with 40 young people also revealed the following key concerns:
  • Difficulties in accessing health and mental health services
  • “People are paranoid, there is no merchandise in the supermarket. It scares me. I break down, sometimes I need to be supported and sustained” (Graduated woman, PBA).
  • Difficulties with educational continuity
  • Difficulties maintaining the bond with relatives

Disabled care-leavers

Facilitated by Berni Kelly (Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland) & Wendy Mupaku (University of Johannesburg, South Africa)

Participants gave a brief overview of their interest in disability and care leaving, including PhD projects on disabled young people leaving care in South Africa and Norway, an evaluation of a supported living service for care leavers with disabilities and/or mental health needs in Spain, and studies of disabled care leavers in Northern Ireland and Africa. Reflecting the lack of research literature on disability and leaving care, the group discussed challenges related to researching this area including issues relating to definitions, stigma, recruitment, retention and gatekeeping. There was also a broad discussion of methods for engaging disabled youth in research, particularly in the context of virtual research during the Covid-19 pandemic. A series of next steps were agreed to develop the special interest group including: expanding the membership; sharing literature and publications; and discussing key issues relating to methods, ethics and theory. It was agreed that Berni and Wendy would disseminate any reports/publications shared by email to the group or place them on the group’s webpage. Berni and Wendy will also arrange a virtual seminar for members in November/December 2020 with a focus on theoretical perspectives, followed by a further 2-3 virtual meetings over the course of the year before the next meeting in Zurich.

Those interested in joining ongoing discussions about care-leavers with disabilities are invited to join the thematic interest group at this INTRAC link.

Education and employment

Facilitated by Neil Harrison (University of Oxford, UK) and Samuel Keller (Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland).

12 researchers come together from the UK, Germany, Australia, U.S., New Zealand, Canada, France, Switzerland

Participants’ fields of interest and research:

  • Understanding how and why care leavers do (not) enter higher education (College and University)
  • Defining supportive dimensions
  • From basic knowledge to conceptualization of concrete (mentoring) Programs (by NGO s and/or Welfare State) to offer support by care leaver networks
  • Quantitative and qualitative methods with different concepts of education and transition

Relevant (comparative) questions:

  • Comparing question: how do/do not States fund students on which stage of education? (scholarship – public or private funding; depending on political situations)
  • What are barriers to access funding – or sometimes even more important – barriers to support young people in care heading higher education (support, self-image, self-confidence, habitus)?
  • What impact do different concepts of education and support have on care leavers’ opportunities?
  • Placement instability, support and educational disruption: how flexible are educational systems offered to young people with specific needs?
  • Are there differences of accompanying and supporting boys and girls?
  • To compare different school systems and their impact on the accesses from care
  • To compare concepts of “education” as well as of “successful transitions”


  • International Comparisons of very complex systems of education – mostly even many national differences
  • Care leavers suffer from bad education systems in specific ways: in many systems you need a lot of additional resources which are missing (social and formal support, money, joint goals, participation)
  • Some sectors of higher education seem to be overrepresented (for example social and creative sciences): Why? Are these good or bad news?
  • Limited data

Those interested in this topic are invited to join the Care-Experienced Students in Higher Education Thematic Interest Group at this INTRAC link

Gender differences in leaving care

Facilitated by Joyce Hlungwani (University of Johannesburg, South Africa) & Anduamlak Takele (Debre Markos University, Ethiopia)

The thematic group discussion on gender differences in leaving care was attended by three participants. While having a small number of people was not intended, a small group allowed for a more intimate interaction and a detailed discussion on the work that each of the participants were involved in. Two of the participants were care-leaving researchers from South Africa and Ethiopia and the other participant was involved in policy development work and working with young people in care in Argentina. It was interesting to learn that there were many similarities between the different contexts with regards to the different experiences that male and female care leavers had. There seemed to be an agreement that female care-leavers appeared to need to more support during and after care due to their unique, gendered experiences most of which were linked to traditional gender roles.

Life course perspective

Facilitated by Robbie Gilligan (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland) & Brenda Tully (UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, USA)

The Life Course Perspective (LCP) was presented, along with examples of LCP concepts as applied to two studies: one study in development and one completed study. The group discussed core aspects of LCP and application to young adults’ experiences exiting care in India during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Note: We began the recording late. Key LCP concepts are described throughout the video and the LCP slides that were not captured at the beginning are shown later in the video.]

Longitudinal research

Facilitated by Adrian van Breda (University of Johannesburg, South Africa) & Kiran Modi (Udayan Care, India)

Participants shared their experiences of conducting longitudinal research in various countries – Canada, India, Netherlands, South Africa and Spain. We discussed strategies for improving retention of participants, including the use of social media. The impact of Covid-19 on the care-leaving journey was an important topic, in that it impacted our data collection methods and, because Covid impacted the transition towards independence, also our ability to answer longitudinal research questions. We discussed the use of non-contact forms of interviewing, notably phone, WhatsApp video or Zoom (or a similar video conferencing tool). We touched on the relationship between an ethics of care and longitudinal research. Finally, we touched on cross-national longitudinal studies.

Mental health and well-being

Facilitated by Judith Havlicek (University of Illinois, USA) & Javiera Pumarino (University of British Columbia, Canada)

The discussion started by reviewing a systematic review of what is known about mental health in U.S. Two people were interested in suicidal behaviors, which this study did not address. A lot of the time was spent trying to understand the context of child welfare systems and countries. Very fun to talk with folks from all of the world and learn about their work in this area.

Policy and legislation

Facilitated by Mark Courtney (University of Chicago, USA) & Martin Goyette (National School of Public Administration, Canada)

Unfortunately, we have no information on this discussion group.

Preparation for leaving care

Facilitated by Jorge Fernandez del Valle (University of Oviedo, Spain) & Kwabena Frimpong-Manso (University of Ghana, Ghana)

Refugee youth

Facilitated by Maren Zeller (Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland) & Paul Bukuluki (Makerere University, Uganda)

If you are interested in this topic, but missed us during the global INTRAC meeting, please get in touch with the facilitators. Three issues that could be discussed internationally/more broadly:

  1. In what kind of research are you engaged right now? Current issues?
  2. Methodological aspects: current experiences and challenges? Innovative ideas?
  3. What could/should we proceed with in the future? What could we proceed with in a joint perspective/effort?

Attached one short paper out of our pilot project that was published in the Transnational Social Review and which might be of interest:

Schmittgen, J., Köngeter, S., & Zeller, M. (2017). Transnational networks and border-crossing activities of young refugees. Transnational Social Review, 7(2), 219-225.

One issue we have started to discuss and would like to continue with who ever is interested is about the experiences and opportunities of Social Network Analysis Methodology refugee youth leaving care.

Please contact Paul Bukuluki at or Maren Zeller at if you wish to engage further on the topic of refugee care leavers.


Facilitated by Sue Bond (University of Johannesburg, South Africa) & Yafit Sulimani-Aidan (Tel Aviv University, Israel)

Our discussion covered resilience as a broad, complex and multi-dimensional concept that is not fully understood. This makes it an appealing field. Different views were expressed about the nature of resilience as a process of adaptation, a mechanism to facilitate positive outcomes or an adaptive response to adversity.

The discussion addressed the difference between how adults (case workers, etc.) regard resilience and how young people perceive resilience.  Early pregnancy, often regarded as a risk, may be regarded by young women as a resilience factor, motivating them to avoid drug taking and other risky behaviours. Resilience as a “culturally unbiased concept” was discussed. Contextual factors drive the acquisition of resilience. For example, the differences in justice systems across countries, or differences in cultures may facilitate or hinder the development of resilience. Research is needed into what young people need to develop resilience across countries and cultures.

Romantic relationships, marriage and parenting of care leavers

Facilitated by Gabriela Dima (Transylvania University, Romania) and Tehila Refaeli (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel)

The group consisted of six members, very briefly presenting their background, interests, and research to date on this topic. Some of the research objectives and guiding questions were: how care leavers experience parenthood, impact of institutionalization on parenthood / parenting style / attachment style, social support and social capital, effective interventions with young adult parent at risk (including care leavers). Other questions raised were: Are most children wished or they appeared accidentally? Do young people want to create a family to fix their past? How does the role/identity of being a parent contribute to changes of the identity of care leavers (stigmatized identity versus “normal” identity).

Methodologies involved are mainly qualitative, with very few quantitative existing studies. Group members use qualitative or mixed methods designs. Related to theoretical frameworks it was agreed that in addition to sociological theories (e.g. family theories, social capital), psychological theories should be involved (e.g. attachment, identity).

We concluded that there is little research on the topics of romantic relationships and parenting of care leavers. The group agreed to continue discussions on e-mail, share documents and continue to collaborate.

If you are interested to take part in the dialogue on this issue please write to Dr Tehila Refaeli at

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