Austria improves educational outcomes for youth in care through better EU investments

austria_news_06-720174Targeted and effective investments in social mentoring along with enhanced cooperation between schools and residential services can improve educational outcomes and maximize impact for youth in care. “Sapere Aude” (from Latin “Dare to know”) is a project conceived to demonstrate that. Through member organisation Bundestherapeutische Gemeinschaften, Opening Doors campaign national coordinator in Austria, FICE Austria is participating in this project in partnership with four other civil society organisations from Spain, Croatia, France and Germany.

Recent European studies show a significant difference in career and academic performance of children and adolescents in care compared to the general population. For instance, a report into educational pathways for care leavers in five European countries – England, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and Spain – found that around 8% access higher education – about five times lower than young people overall. When it comes to employment in Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary and Norway, the gap between the estimated unemployment rate for care leavers and other young people is close to 20%, according to a recent publication by SOS Children’s Villages International. It was also found that many young people in foster and residential care suffer regular interruptions in their basic education that the school system could not compensate. Lack of professional guidance puts  many youngsters leaving care under pressure to complete a short-cycle vocational training in order to be financially independent as soon as possible instead of choosing academic or vocational training at a higher level, which often offers more benefits in the long-term.

According to Olgica Cekic, National Coordinator of the Opening Doors Campaign in Austria, “Although children in Austria are growing up in family- and community-based care, they are not supported when they leave care. Transitioning from care to independent living for young adults is not explicitly covered by the legislation. Therefore, young adults’ aftercare mostly depends on a voluntary involvement of their (former) residential care provider and/or foster parents. Despite large investment in resources and professional efforts, the issue of education and training of youth in care has not been efficiently addressed yet neither. Given the role of training in social ascension, failure to properly resolve this issue brings along the risk of exclusion in their life trajectories.”

Implemented in a framework of the EU Erasmus + (Strategic Partnership), Sapere Aude aims to improve educational paths of children and young people that grow up residential care. The overall objective of the project is to develop, test and evaluate a pilot scheme of volunteer social mentoring. At the same time, it strives to improve efficiency of services, specifically in terms of youth training. It seeks to demonstrate profitability of investment, when specific and coordinated low-cost interventions can deliver meaningful and sustainable positive results in improving welfare of youth in care, in particular their school education outcomes.

Through structured volunteer program of social mentoring, the Sapere Aude project promotes a more cohesive and committed society where people do not ignore each other and collaborate for the mutual benefits. Sapere Aude is a project funded by the European Union, specifically by the Erasmus + program, which promotes exchanges and cooperation between individuals, organisations and institutions in the field of education, children and youth.

More information about Sapere Aude project and its activities can be found at the project’s website:, Erasmus + program’s website: and FICE Austria’s webpage:

  • Read more about institutional care in Austria here
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