Roundtable on the problems of disadvantaged young people

The Find your way to the world of work project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment.

Professionals working with disadvantaged young people shared their experiences at this year’s first social roundtable in Gheorgheni. The meeting was organized by the Community and Social Resource Center from Gheorgheni and Caritas Alba Iulia at the Polaris Education Center. The purpose of the first meeting was to explore the situation and to identify problems.

Two social roundtables will be organized during the autumn. The purpose of the initiative is to talk about the situation, education and training needs of children and young people living in children’s homes or attending to after-school programs. Based on this exploration, we will develop a concrete action plan with training and education programs that can be of help to organizations and young people in the future.

The first meeting was held at the Polaris Education Center and was attended by 22 people from 12 organizations, institutions and social programs (school education consultants, family-type placement center educators, after-school program educators, social workers, municipal social referents, sector leaders etc.). The purpose of the meeting was to identify problems, so after the welcome and a brief personal presentation, everyone present shared their thoughts on the problems young people living in children’s homes or families in difficult social situations experience.

The most important (most frequently mentioned) problems were: physical and emotional abandonment of children and adolescents (parents working abroad, deficiencies in parent-child relationship), emotional neglect, purposelessness, lack of motivation, career guidance difficulties (probably from external pressure and to reduce insecurity and uncertainty, young people want to complete school choices, career choices as soon as possible; they won’t rely on their inner calling, but waiting for external information, guarantees, confirmations etc.).

More specifically, the difficulties faced by children from children’s homes and after-school programs include emotional neglect and lack of affection, childhood traumas, marginalization due to a modest financial background (sometimes lower academic performance), lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. For those living in the child protection system, getting out of the system and preparing for life is a particular challenge.

After listening to the problems, dr. Daniel Botond, sociologist, head of the Resource Center, gave a presentation on the results of the secondary school research in Gheorgheni at the end of 2018. Specifically, he presented the family background, educational and study situation, leisure-time habits, participation in extracurricular activities, and future plans of the 20 students living in children’s homes, compared to the situation of young people living in a family.

The most important results of the research:

  • High school students in Gheorgheni living in child protection institutions generally come from large families with lower socio-economic status (both in terms of parents’ educational qualifications and labor market situation).
  • They are also disadvantaged from an educational point of view, as they attend educational institutions of lower prestige, their academic achievement is lower than their schoolmates’, and they do not have access to private lessons as well as their members living in a family.
  • They reported significantly lower levels of Romanian language proficiency (but better German) and lower motivation to learn Romanian than their peers and less time spent learning Romanian out of school.
  • They spend less time learning on weekdays as well as on weekends, but spend more time with household chores than youngsters living in a family.
  • Each respondent has a circle of friends with whom to spend their free time. In their free time (compared to their peers living in a family) boys prefer computer games, working out and passive cultural activities (reading), whereas girls, on average, engage in more active and passive cultural activities than their peers living in a family.
  • Extra-curricular activities are more likely to be associated with occasional events, but teens are usually externally motivated to participate in various activities (teacher’s praise, financial motivation).
  • None of the respondent students participated in activities as volunteers.
  • Regarding their future, they plan to graduate in a lower proportion. They are not less self-confident compared to their peers, but more polarized: in their proportions, there are more young people with specific plans and those who have no plans after high school.
  • They are characterized by specific career guidance patterns, less learning-oriented, but not too work-oriented. Most of them would rather work at the age 20 than continue their education.
  • They strongly underplan their careers, both in terms of the highest level of education they have planned and in terms of projected income and career choice.
  • They plan to start a family and have children sooner than their peers who live in a family.

The next meeting will also take place at the Polaris Education Center on Monday, October 14th, when – based on the exploration – we will gather and formulate solutions and project ideas.

Based on the results of the two meetings (finding out the problems and suggesting solutions, designing projects) and research data, the Polaris Consulting team of experts will prepare a professional background material, which will be a great help in future development work.

This article first appeared on

More photos of the event are available here.

The Find your way to the world of work project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment.

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