Our work with children and young people in care and autonomy of life

Our work with children and young people in care and autonomy of life

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APDES  has been working for 15 years with chidren and young people in residential care, when they need to be taken from their families and young people in autonomy of life, who are in the transition phase or leaving the residential care institution where they lived.

APDES believes that regardless of each life experience, all children should feel loved, listened and integrated. Specifically, in the case of children and young people withdrawn from their families, it is essential to safeguard their rights.  

Video produced by GIS-APDES


The situation in Portugal

In 2020, 15,403 children and young people in Portugal were flagged for their exposure to one or more dangerous situations in 2020: neglect (71%), lack of family support, abandonment, devious behaviours, among others(13%) and psychological abuse (10%). Last year, 6,706  children and young people were in residential care, distributed by the different social responses. 

Children and young people remain in residential care in the various reception responses for 3.4 years on average, with several children who spend their entire childhood and adolescence in a residential home. 

Although the Law on the Protection of Children and Youth in Danger prioritizes measures that integrate the child or young person in a family rather than being welcomed by an institution, only 3% of children and young people benefit from this measure. 

With this, the Portuguese system, by resorting massively to the institutionalization of children and young people deprives them of one of the fundamental rights: the possibility of growing up in a family. This is what the United Nation Committee on the Rights of the Children says.



APDES’s work in the area of childcare and young people

APDES, through the Gabinete de Intervenção em Saúde (GIS), has supported about 1000 children and young people in vulnerable situations, breaking cycles of abandonment, suffering and inferiorization, reinforcing universal values and rights. 

The  Gabinete de Intervenção em Saúde (GIS) from APDES accumulates an experience of 15 years of intervention with children and young people in vulnerable situations and the technical and educational teams that accompany them.

  • We accompany children and young people in residential care to promote their personal and social development.
  • We offer consultation service for evaluation and psychological monitoring of children and adolescents.
  • We have carried out health and personal development programmes for around 1000 children and young people.
  • We organize Health Holiday Colonies.


“Here I can be me…” (D.C., 18 years, Tudo aos Direitos).

“I’m inspired by… me. I set my own goals” (S.F., 17 years, Inpacto).


We train and enable more than 100 professionals working in the area of child protection by providing them with strategies and competencies to respond to the needs of these children in order to provide them with positive and structuring experiences.

  • We train and enable teams working in the area of child protection: we provide professionals with strategies and skills to respond to needs.
  • We work in a network with professionals from 6 residential houses in Vila Nova de Gaia and we have created an informal network with them: the Proteger+ Network.

Some testimonies:

«The Tudo aos Direitos was a project that was an asset for our residential house, which now has stronger foundation to be able to continue to intervene with young people, for human rights and citizenship.»


«The Tudo aos Direitos project, like the previous GIS projects, has enabled the development of autonomy in the children and young people welcomed here. From this change came the need to give a more active voice to those with whom we work daily, because we consider that they are the main agents of their lives.»


We also support young people during the transition to adulthood to live independently and autonomously before and after leaving resitential homes.

  • Through the Info-desk service, telephone line available every day.
  • We promote the creation and empower the informal group of young people in autonomy of life Young Experts who advocate for the rights of children and young people during and after the residential care.


“Training has helped in my progress. The trainers told me to follow my dreams and I’m going to take the ninth grade to go to a health assistant course and work in a hospital.”  (R., 22 years, Work in Progress project).



To learn more about GIS’s work


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Get to know some published materials

Manual de processos participativos e gestão democrática

This manual is an educational resource for NGOs that wish to implement participatory methodologies, in the context of working with young people in autonomy of life, and through these approaches and practices of democratic management can be trained with a view to greater empowerment of young people and grater civic participation. 

Manual Tudo aos Direitos

This manual describes a programme to promote the citizenship and human rights of young people living in residential homes. 

Step UP

In the ambit of  Outogether project, co-financed by the EU, workshops were held in residential homes to promote the autonomy of children and young people. The “Step UP” professional guide describes these workshops, allowing more young people to enjoy these reception preparation sessions. 

Training Manual for Professionals: Preparation for the Departure of the Residential Care 

Also in the Outogether project, training was carried out to technical and educational teams of residential houses in various regions of the country on the theme “Promoting the Autonomy of Young People in Residential Care”.  You can access the training course in online format through the website: moodle.apdes.pt.

Transnational Recommendations:  On Good Practices and Transferable Working Methods for Leaving Care 

Created with the contributions of several young people (in residential care or in autonomy) and professionals working in the area of the protection of children and young people. It was undoubtedly a co-production and the result of good teamwork and we hope it will bear fruits with regard to the accompaniment of childrem and young people in residential care experience.