The Bergen municipality (through the Child protection office) launched a specific programme for unaccompanied children who got the residence permit or refugee status. If the child reaches the age of 18 before her/his status is determined, she or he passes under the adult system programme.
Unaccompanied minors (UAM) are among the priorities of the municipality. These are children and youth in need of specific care and support. Since the year 2000 about 300 UAM have been resettled in Bergen; in total, these kids represent more than 25 nationalities.
There are huge socioeconomic, educational and emotional differences among UAMs, who are often in a “survival mode”, with different implications for the services to be provided. For instance, there are children who have been victims of family violence or child abuse, and at the same time young adults that have the necessary skills to integrate the university. This led the municipality to put in place an individual assessment of the needs of each child, both upon arrival and on a regular basis. The children that participate in the UAM programme are thus accompanied to express their wishes in terms of expectations from the welfare and assistance system, of plans for future, and of self-determination.
Early integration in the education system and access to job opportunities are considered to be essential in the inclusion process. The workers involved in the UAM programme have to build credit and trust, and invest time and energy in the first phase to build up an individual relationship with each kid. However, the results are good: for instance 90% of Afghan boys are either working or enrolled in higher education after four years in Norway. These are higher rates than the average of Norwegian born kids. Promoting self-motivation and the identification of each one’s talents and skills are considered to be key factors for this success.
The new ambitious targets set this year to increase the number of UAM to host suppose however for the municipality to put in place new strategies so to be able to ensure the same deep and individual follow-up to each kid. This is why the city has started cooperation with the private sector (mainly for job opportunities), and with so-called “support families” that can foster care.