In some circumstances, children and teenagers may find themselves affected by vulnerability (desprotecció) and abuse (maltractament), involving malnutrition and/or a lack of hygiene, physical and psychological violence, sexual abuse or even labour exploitation. The emotional and physical consequences of neglecting minors affect their activities in society and can lead to school absenteeism, difficulties with social relationships, etc.

The authorities are required to take action in such situations, in order to respect and implement minors' rights. The Directorate-General for Care for Children and Teenagers (Direcció General d'Atenció a la Infància i l'Adolescència,  DGAIA) promotes the well-being of minors at high risk of social exclusion, so as to contribute to their personal development. It also protects and acts as a guardian for vulnerable minors, and is responsible for their custody in certain cases established by law.

See for further information.

Child and teenager care teams (Equips d'Atenció a la Infància i l'Adolescència, EAIA) are responsible for assessing the situation of minors and families, for making proposals in the best interests of minors and for monitoring the application of measures agreed upon together with other professionals who may be involved in a specific case (municipal social services, security forces, educators and teachers, etc.). Such teams also provide psychological and social support for the families of children taken into care by the Catalan government.

There are a number of resources for the protection of minors, such as:

  • Residential education centres (Centres Residencials d'Acció Educativa, CRAE). Taking a minor into institutional care involves placing them in a centre suited to their requirements, in order for them to receive the necessary care and education. Such a measure is taken when a minor's vulnerability or the need to separate them from their family is expected to be temporary, or when it is not possible or advisable for them to be fostered by an individual or a family.

  • Homes (centres d'acolliment). These residential centres belong to or work with the DGAIA. They have a multidisciplinary staff (doctors, psychologists, educators and social workers) and aim to study and identify the situation of the minors placed in their care, as well as that of the families of those minors, in order to suggest appropriate measures. Only minors who require immediate care and have to be separated from their family are sent to such homes.

  • Open centres (centres oberts). These establishments operate outside school hours, carrying out work geared to prevention and caring for minors considered to be at risk. Their aim is to help young people to develop their personality, acquire basic skills and overcome social and educational deficiencies. Open centres may be run by regional councils, local bodies or private organisations with social objectives.

  • In addition to the resources described above, it is also possible for minors taken into care to live with foster families (famílies d'acolliment), who are given custody over children or teenagers to allow for their comprehensive development in positive financial and emotional conditions.

Various measures have been established to help with the social and vocational reintegration of youngsters who have been in the care of the DGAIA, when they reach the age of 18 (adult age):

  • Supervised apartments (pisos assistits). These apartments are for youngsters who were previously in care and who, having reached adult age, do not have their own resources and are unlikely to achieve personal autonomy. Under certain circumstances, such apartments are also made available to minors aged 16 to 18 in the care of the DGAIA.

  • Social and vocational insertion programmes (programes d'inserció sociolaboral). These programmes include pre-work, occupational and specific training, work experience in companies and support for social integration. Each youngster is assigned an occupational tutor to guide and assist them in the process of achieving social and work-related independence.