Young adults' experiences of their transition from residential care to independent living
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Against the background of various challenges faced by young adult care leavers and ongoing debates on care leaving interventions in contemporary South Africa, the researcher aimed to explore five selected participants’ experiences and related narratives of their transition from residential care to independent living. The working assumption was that the lived experiences of young adult care leavers who made the journey to independent living could be useful in developing guidelines for professionals in their facilitation of support for young care leavers who reside in residential care. Methodologically, the study followed a qualitative instrumental case study research design, anchored in an interpretivist paradigm. The data for this study was collected in three phases. In the first phase of the study, the researcher conducted semi-structured telephonic interviews with eight prospective participants. Based on the data collected from these semi-structured telephonic interviews, the researcher purposively selected five primary participants to participate in the research study. During the second phase of the study, the researcher used multiple data collection methods with the five selected primary participants, such as semi-structured interviews, narrative case inquiries, post-modern data collection methods, and analysis of existing material and documents (archival research). During the third phase of the research process, the researcher conducted reflective and dyad interviews with secondary participants. In addition, the researcher used observation (Terre Blanche & Durrheim, 1999) throughout the sessions with primary and secondary participants. She documented her observations in a reflective diary and in the form of field notes. Furthermore, with regard to data documentation, she made audio-recordings of interviews and narrative case inquiries, and kept visual data of activities and media for the duration of the study (Mayan, 2001). Following an inductive thematic analysis, three main themes emerged: pre-transition phase, transition phase and post-transition phase. The findings of the current study showed that young adult care leavers displayed distinctive and significant features during their transition to independent living. One of the findings was that care leavers experienced various challenges during the pre-transition, transition and post-transition phases to independent living. Care leavers identified their pre-transition needs for stable relationships, education, life skills, therapeutic support and self-determination. Related findings showed that care leavers were not prepared for the transition process during placement in care, and subsequently experienced feelings of uncertainty and anxiety upon departure from care. In the transition phase, participants experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation due to a lack of emotional support from places of care. Care leavers displayed difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships, and they felt vulnerable due to being stigmatized. They furthermore participated in harmful behaviour. During the post-transition phase, young adult care leavers demonstrated resilient processes as they mobilised relationships, street-smarts, reflective learning, goals, life lessons and religion to ameliorate the impact of the transition process. Most importantly, young adults’ experiences of their transition from residential care to independent living provided insight into potential ways that places of care could apply address transition challenges on an interpersonal and intrapersonal level, to facilitate care leavers’ adjustment into independent living. The study provides empirical evidence to broaden the current knowledge base on young adult care leavers’ transition from residential care to independent living. The study contributes to the existing knowledge base by firstly highlighting young adult care leavers’ experiences in the pre-transition, transition and post-transition phases. Secondly, the study introduces findings regarding young adult care leavers’ mental health, educational attainment, employment, life skills and relationships. Thirdly, the study contributes to new insight into possible challenges that care leavers could encounter on a daily basis, as well as the various kinds of services that could be provided to address transition barriers. Finally the study conjectures the interconnectedness between the transition experiences of young adult care leavers and transition guidelines, in the sense that implementation of interventions could be based on the lived experiences of young adult care leavers who have transitioned to adulthood. Within the context of the existing knowledge base on transition interventions, the findings suggest that care leavers could be prepared for the transition process by care-driven support initiatives. Firstly, the study brings greater insight into integrated transition initiatives that could be mobilised in the pretransition, transition and post-transition phases. Secondly, the findings provide insight into potential ways in which places of care can address in-care and after-care services in support of young adult care leavers, possibly within diverse contexts. Thirdly, the study contributes to new insight into the development and expansion of independent living programmes that could be mobilised for transition support and the promotion of positive adult outcomes for care leavers. Finally the study provides insight into potential ways in which professionals, such as social workers, educators, counsellors, weekend carers and psychologists, who are involved at children’s homes, could provide support, while youth are still in care, or in the form of aftercare services, which could facilitate the transition into independent living.
- Humanities