SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.58 issue1Consequences experienced by women survivors of human trafficking in South AfricaPsychosocial deficits associated with teenagers born and raised in a "small-house" family setting in Cherutombo in Marondera, Zimbabwe author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand



Related links

  • On index processCited by Google
  • On index processSimilars in Google


Social Work

On-line version ISSN 2312-7198
Print version ISSN 0037-8054

Social work (Stellenbosch. Online) vol.58 n.1 Stellenbosch  2022 



Social support networks for youths aging out of residential care to promote positive transition outcomes - a scoping review



Charity PoteI; Glynnis DykesII; Shernaaz CarelseIII

IPostgraduate student, Social Work Department, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.
IISocial Work Department, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.
IIISocial Work Department, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.




This scoping review provides the available evidence on support interventions and networks for youths aging out of child and youth care centres (CYCCs), and makes recommendations for best practice to alleviate the plight of youths leaving CYCCs. Thirteen databases were searched, resulting in the retrieval of 80 articles, 26 of which met the review criteria: English, full-text, peer-reviewed, open-access studies conducted between 2015 and 2020 on social networks and transitional services to youths aging out of residential care. Recommendations are made for policy changes, extending the age of eligibility and strengthening social support networks for youths transitioning into independent living.

Keywords: child and youth care centres, positive transition outcomes, residential care, support interventions, social support networks, youths aging out of care




The transition of youths into adulthood varies significantly in different social contexts, reflecting variances in livelihood pathways and outcomes (Harrison, 2019; Mamelani Projects, 2020). Research across the world has shown that this period in a young adult's life constitutes not only a major transition, but a process that is at least as complex and stressful as that of separation. It can place immense pressure on young people who are already vulnerable and at high risk (Dickens, 2018; Moodley, Raninga & Sewpaul, 2020; Van Breda, 2018). Although youths face different hurdles in their transition to adulthood, those in child and youth care centres (CYCCs) experience significant challenges resulting from their past experiences of harm, neglect, abuse and separation from parents (Dickens, 2018; Moodley et al, 2020; Van Breda, 2018), or the precipitating reasons for their referrals to CYCCs. After leaving care, they are at increased risk of low educational attainment, unemployment, early pregnancy, substance abuse, crime, imprisonment and homelessness (Fredericks, 2018; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Mamelani Projects, 2020; Obeng, 2020; Sekibo, 2020; Van Breda, 2018).

As a result, the adequate preparation of youths and the strengthening of their social networks are of paramount importance before they return to family members or are reintegrated into the community to live independently. Social support networks in the context of this study refer to formal or informal arrangements and processes by a group of individuals with common interests or activities that share and exchange information and provide and receive support (Rosenberg, 2019). Social support networks are often incorporated into after-care support programmes to ensure improved outcomes for youths' post-residential care (Nurcombe-Thorne, Nadesan & Van Breda, 2018). Bond and Van Breda (2018) suggest that a planned and properly managed preparation process for leaving care is necessary, thus incorporating a network of social support for youths ageing out of care. However, in the South African context there are no uniform guidelines on how this transition is to be implemented (Dickens, 2018; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley etal, 2020; Van Breda, 2018).

Disadvantaged youths, which include but are not limited to youths living in poverty, refugees, orphans, the marginalised and youths in CYCCs, face additional adversities during their transition to adulthood (Bond, 2020; Fredericks, 2018; Harder, Mann-Feder, Oterholm & Refaeli, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020; Sekibo, 2020). Studies on marginalised youths show that they experience poverty, trauma and discrimination, which can often lead to risky behaviours and negative transition outcomes (Gwenzi, 2020; Obeng, 2020; Takele & Kotecho, 2020). The transition from a C YCC to community life is often a difficult adjustment for these young people. They are forced to become 'instant adults', and in many cases struggle to cope with life's challenges outside of the CYCC (Dickens, 2018; Van Breda, 2018). They lose most of the economic, social and emotional support previously provided to them by the CYCC and must deal with major changes in their lives at a far younger age than most people, having to find employment and often new homes on their own (Campos, Goig & Ceunca, 2020; Mendes & McCurdy, 2019; Trif, 2018).

Even with the extension of support, youths transitioning out of residential care experience difficulties in completing and attaining higher education and training, finding and maintaining employment, securing stable housing, and building and maintaining healthy relationships (Bond, 2020; Campos et al, 2020; Dickens & Marx, 2020; Sekibo, 2020). Studies (Mhongera & Lombard, 2018; Takele & Kotecho, 2020; Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020) have shown that many young people, unable to meet their basic needs once they age out of care, end up living in poverty, committing a crime, taking substances and experiencing early parenthood. Moreover, the low-income status among youths aging out of care was found to exacerbate challenges in the areas of housing and employment, resulting in a higher risk for poor mental health (specifically relating to substance abuse) and physical health (Dutta, 2018; Dickens, 2018; Frimpong-Manso, 2020). Therefore, they often find themselves becoming entangled with the criminal justice system (Sekibo, 2020).

Globally, services, programmes and policies have been created in an attempt to support the transition from CYCCs into independent living. According to most of the studies reviewed, these interventions do not fully equip and prepare young people for independent living (Bond, 2020; Dickens, 2018; Harder et al, 2020; Mogale, 2019; Van Breda, 2018). Section 191(3 )(e) of the South African Children's Act 38 of 2005 (RSA, 2005) requires CYCCs to offer transitional support to youths exiting care. Although it refers to preparation and support for transition from care, the Children's Act does not indicate which specific services would provide the kind of support required by youths exiting CYCCs (Moodley et al, 2020; Pinkerton & Van Breda, 2019; Van Breda, 2018). The topic of preparing youths to exit CYCCs and the provision of after-care services is fairly new and under-researched in South Africa and, as a result, services are largely underdeveloped (Van Breda, 2018).

According to Hlungwani and Van Breda (2020), child and youth care workers (CYCWs) in South Africa are not trained to facilitate programmes that meet the specific needs of youths transitioning out of residential care. There is a dearth of formal research on how best to support youths as they make this transition to life outside of residential care (Mamelani Projects, 2020; Van Breda, 2018). Some studies focus on youth experiences and the challenges they face once they exit residential care (Dickens, 2018; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020; Van Breda, 2018). However, little is known about the development and use of social networks as youths aging out of residential state care move into adult roles in areas such as housing, employment and education. As a result, many CYCCs have found it difficult to fully prepare young people for independent living and to offer continued support so that they might cope with typical adult challenges (Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020). Moreover, in the CYCC environment there is very little focus on building strong social support networks for the youth (Fredericks, 2018). This means that many youths leave CYCCs without the necessary skills, resources and social networks needed in order to thrive outside residential care.

A scoping review was chosen to examine the extent, range and nature of research on social networks for youths aging out of residential state care and to identify knowledge gaps on the topic. Currently there appear to be a limited number of studies on this aspect of youth protection services and little is known on the topic. The objective of this scoping review was to examine the available evidence on the social networks and transitional services provided by CYCCs to youths aging out of residential care and to identify any guidelines on this topic.



The scoping review was guided by the methodological framework developed by Arksey and O'Malley (2005). A scoping review is a summary of what is known about a specific topic, addressing the topic from multiple perspectives, based on a range of studies and study designs (Arksey & O'Malley, 2005; Levac, Colquhoun & O'Brien, 2010). Scoping reviews are different from systematic reviews. While systematic reviews aim to answer a particular research question through a critical appraisal of studies with specific methodological characteristics, scoping reviews include qualitative and quantitative studies, as well as samples of non-research materials; the quality of the studies selected is not evaluated, as in the case of systematic reviews. A scoping review is conducted to examine the extent, range and nature of research articles on a particular topic, hence allowing researchers to summarise and disseminate research findings and to identify gaps in the existing literature with regard to the topic examined. In this study a methodology for the scoping review was selected that would enable the identification of all literature on the topic of social support networks available to youths aging out of residential care into independent living that promoted positive outcomes, regardless of the design, perceived strength and quality of the selected studies. The aim of the scoping review was to examine the literature on social support networks available to youths aging out of residential care into independent living that promoted positive outcomes. In terms of Arksey and O'Malley's (2005) framework, the following five stages were followed in conducting this scoping review.

Stage 1: Identify the research question

The primary research question that guided this review was: What are the existing social support networks available to youths aging out of residential care into independent living that promote positive transition outcomes? The following supporting questions were developed during the review process to address specific areas of the primary research question:

What types of transition interventions (services, programmes, policies) are used to support youths aging out of CYCCs?

What support networks are available to these youths?

What are the characteristics of these support networks?

What specific forms of help do youths get from their support networks that enable them to cope with independent living?

Stage 2: Identify relevant studies

Searches of 11 databases were conducted in August 2020: Google Scholar, JSTOR, Scopus, Sabinet African Journals, Cambridge Core, Science Direct, Sage publications, Elsevier, Taylor and Francis online journals, Oxford journals and Springer. A total of 80 articles were found, of which only 26 met the inclusion criteria. The checklist Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) was used as it helps researchers to develop an understanding of essential reporting items, relevant terminology and core concepts for use in scoping reviews (Peters, Godfrey, Mclnerney, Munn, Tricco & Khalil, 2020). PRIM SM A-S cR was applied by (1) identifying titles deemed suitable, based on the keywords, (2) screening abstracts, based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria, and (3) selecting studies that met the proposed study criteria. Figure 1 below illustrates the process that was followed when selecting studies for review. Keywords included social support networks, youth, aging out of care, residential care and positive transition outcomes.

Stage 3: Study selection

The researchers set the following inclusion criteria: English, full-text, peer-reviewed, open-access studies conducted between 2015 and 2020 on social networks and transitional services provided by CYCCs to youths aging out of residential care. The date parameters of 2015 and 2020 ensured that only more recent and therefore relevant studies were considered. The exclusion criteria were: peer-reviewed studies on the topic in any language other than English, paid content and older than 2015. A data extraction sheet, as proposed by Peters et al. (2020), was used (see Table 1).

Of the 26 studies that met the inclusion criteria, 18 were qualitative, three were quantitative and two were cross-sectional. Most studies were conducted in South Africa (10), six (6) in other African countries (Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda), four (4) in Europe, four (4) in Asia, one in Australia, and one in North America. Studies from Europe, America and Asia were included for comparison purposes with African studies, with particular attention devoted to South African studies.

Stage 4: Charting the data

This stage involved recording important information identified in the data generated by the literature search. During this stage, the three reviewers engaged in a process of developing the data charting form (See Table 1). The following variables were included: author(s) and year in which the study was published, the country where the study was conducted, aims, purpose or objectives of the study, research population and sample size, research methodology and data instruments used, and key findings.

Nine themes emerged during the process of data extraction. These are:

Support for educational attainment;

Financial support and job access;

Support for quality living;

Initiating and maintaining relationships;

Reconnecting with and maintaining family relationships;

Community support and mentorship;

Life-skills preparation;

Opportunities for personal growth and the development of resilience;

Social support networks.

Stage 5: Collating, summarising and reporting the findings

The three reviewers conducted an independent analysis of the data following the eight steps proposed by Tesch, in Creswell (2014), for thematic analysis in qualitative studies. They then conducted a consensus consultation and reached agreement on the final themes for inclusion. Agreement was reached on the interpretation of findings and their implications for policy, practice and future research.



Various transitional services, programmes and policies were noted in this review, all acting as interventions to prepare youths for life after they have exited residential care. Although the majority of the CYCCs mentioned in the studies are regulated and funded by government, they implement transition policies and support interventions differently. The following sections describe the transition interventions and youth support networks available to transitioning youths, and how they affect transition outcomes. Based on the findings, recommendations are given for supporting youths transitioning out of CYCCs.

Support for educational attainment

Many studies (nine) in this review, all in South Africa, found that attaining higher education constituted a special challenge to youths who have aged out of the CYCC system (Bond, 2020; Dickens, 2018; Dickens & Marx, 2020; Fredericks, 2018; Harder et al, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020; Van Breda, 2020; Van Breda, 2018; Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020). Most youths in CYCCs lacked family and financial support, and as a result found entry into tertiary education more difficult than their peers in the general population do (Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020). They had fewer prospects than their peers to progress from high school and seldom obtained higher education qualifications (Bond, 2020; Dickens & Marx, 2020). Six of the studies found that most youths in CYCCs had a higher chance of failing matric than their classmates did who had family-based backgrounds and support from their social networks (Dickens & Marx, 2020; Fredericks, 2018; Harder et al, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020). Moreover, many young people across South Africa lacked vocational and educational support (Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020). As a result, many cannot find secure work or an attractive job in line with their vocational training, largely as a result of the absence of a social network and the CYCCs' failure to coordinate job placement, especially in the case of female care-leavers (Mogale, 2019; Van Breda, 2018). The findings from nine studies conducted in South Africa were similar to those of other African countries such as Zimbabwe (two) (Gwendie, 2020; Mhongera & Lombard, 2018), Uganda (one) (Bukuluki, Kamya, Kasirye & Nabulya (2020) and West Africa (Ghana, Nigeria and Ethiopia) (three) (Frimpong-Manso, 2020; Sekibo, 2020; Takele & Kotecho, 2020) as well as abroad (Dutta, 2018; Trif, 2018; Verstraete et al, 2018), in that they found youths in residential care lacked support to achieve higher educational outcomes. On the whole, youths in residential care in developed countries had better educational options than those in emerging countries; developed countries offer campus support programmes that provide social, personal and informational support to promote resilience and to prepare youths for the transition from high school to tertiary education (Campos et al, 2020; Mendes & McCurdy, 2019; Trif, 2018). Recommendations included building a strong social support network and the formulation of a more comprehensive after-care educational policy for youths transitioning out of residential care.

Nine of the studies reviewed recommended that care-leavers continue to make use of after-care support from both formal and informal social networks (Bond, 2020; Dickens, 2018; Dickens & Marx, 2020; Fredericks, 2018; Harder et al, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020; Van Breda, 2018; Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020). The youths viewed after-care support as supportive and helpful in their attempt to navigate the adult world on their own.

Financial support and job access

Many studies (eight) in South Africa showed that youths transitioning from residential care to independent living struggle to find employment, a finding supported by studies in other countries (Bond, 2020; Dickens & Marx, 2020; Fredericks, 2018; Frimpong-Manso, 2020; Gwenzi, 2020; Harder et al, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Manuel etal, 2018; Obeng, 2020; Trif, 2018; Van Breda, 2018). Five studies showed that many youths transitioning out of CYCCs did not have permanent jobs and earned incomes below the poverty line (Dickens & Marx, 2020; Fredericks, 2018; Harder et al, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Van Breda, 2018). Moreover, they progressed more slowly in the labour market than youths who had support before and after leaving care (Dickens & Marx, 2020; Harder et al, 2020). Recommendations included vocational training and youth mentoring programmes for all youths transitioning from CYCCs.

Support for quality living

Eight South African studies found, like the international and other African studies, that youths who received housing interventions and support from their social networks (mentors, family, social workers) experienced less homelessness than those who did not enjoy such support (Bond, 2020; Dickens, 2018; Dickens & Marx, 2020; Fredericks, 2018; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020; Van Breda, 2018; Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020). Three studies (Fredericks, 2018; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020) found that youths who lacked support networks from their microsystems were more vulnerable to homelessness than those who received help from their social networks. Recommendations included alternative housing arrangements and social support for youths aging out of care, since without such support there is a high probability that such youths would return to high-risk environments (Dickens & Marx, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020). Another recommendation was for CYCCs to be more proactive when linking youths with their families and support networks in order to provide the additional support required for a successful transition to independence (Fredericks, 2018; Moodley etal, 2020).

Initiating and maintaining relationships

The studies revealed that, for various reasons, relationships for youths in residential care were not always sustained over the long term. From the time that youths were removed from their biological homes, many reported losing contact and relations with their former microsystems (Bond, 2020; Dickens, 2018; Fredericks, 2018; Moodley et al, 2020; Van Breda, 2018). The longer a young person remained in residential care, the more loss of former relationships they experienced, which negatively affected transition outcomes (Dickens & Marx, 2020; Harder et al, 2020). However, in three studies, youths indicated that the CYCC was a platform that helped them to build meaningful and healthy formal relationships with their child and youth care workers, social workers and mentors, and informal relationships with their friends and churches (Bond, 2020; Dickens & Marx, 2020; Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020). A high value was placed on friends, significant others and positive parent figures by most young people interviewed. The findings of four studies revealed the importance of at least one long-term relationship with an individual as youths transitioned into adulthood (Campos et al, 2020; Dutta, 2018; Obeng, 2020; Trif, 2018). Recommendations from various studies included pairing youths in CYCCs with mentors, strengthening family and social support networks, and involving such networks in preparing youths for exiting residential care (Fredericks, 2018; Gwenzi, 2020; Mhongera & Lombard, 2018; Moodley etal, 2020; Takele & Kotecho, 2020; Trif, 2018).

Reconnecting with and maintaining family relationships

Close ties with family assist youths by sustaining them through the process of transitioning (Campos et al, 2020; Gwenzi, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020; Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020). In general, family connections are an important source of support during the time of transition; however, Van Breda and Pinkerton (2020) point out that there are different interpretations of the term 'family'. In the global North, 'family' is understood to mean the nuclear family (parents and children), while extended family refers to grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles (Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020). On the other hand, in African cultures 'family' was understood to be the clan or kin, which includes everyone belonging to one's ancestral line and those married into that line (Fredericks, 2018). In this scoping review, four studies conducted in Africa found that youth transition outcomes were complicated by disintegrated families, lack of maternal love and broken relationships in families (Fredericks, 2018; Frimpong-Manso, 2020; Mhongera & Lombard, 2018; Takele & Kotecho, 2020).

In the Zimbabwean study by Gwenzi (2020), youths indicated that biological relationships generally continued despite negative experiences. Participants felt that emotional support and relationships were based on the provision of love and care (Gwenzi, 2020). The study further found that youths described 'family' as individuals in their lives who behaved and lived like family, and provided care, as expected within a family setup (Frimpong-Manso, 2020; Mhongera & Lombard, 2020). Tracing their family of origin became a major task for care-leavers, which in many cases left them vulnerable to identity crises and a sense of having almost no social network during emerging adulthood (Gwenzi, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020). Most studies recommended that CYCCs should do more to strengthen and preserve the family relationships of youths in residential care.

Community support and mentorship

A study by Van Breda (2018) in South Africa found that youths who had participated in Mamelani Projects' (2020) independent living programme (ILP) were more likely to complete high school, obtain employment and become self-sufficient when leaving their CYCC. Mamelani Projects (2020) is a nongovernment organisation that offers the ILP to youths between the ages of 16 and 21 in residential care facilities in Cape Town. Their services aim to develop youths' self-sufficiency and to reduce difficulties during the transition to independence (Fredericks, 2018; Van Breda, 2018). The ILP includes preparation for employment in the form of life-skills training to enhance the youths' ability to manage daily living (Van Breda, 2018). ILP youths worked closely with a social worker or mentor to address their goals and to develop an independent living plan based on their particular needs. This study recommended that the government foster care grant be extended to cover young people over the age of 18, and that a separate grant be made available to youths over the age of 18 who are in the process of transitioning out of CYCCs (Van Breda, 2018).

Another example of a community programme that included mentorship is South African Youth Education for Sustainability (SAYes) 2019 (MacDonald, Fargas-Malet, Marco, Pinkerton, Mathews, Kelly & Montgomery, 2020). This organisation provides socio-emotional support to youths aging out of care through relationships created between youths and their mentors (MacDonald et al, 2020; SAYes, 2019). Findings revealed that youths who were in the SAYes programme and had long relationships with their mentors enjoyed more positive outcomes when transitioning to independent living than those who had only short relationships (SAYes, 2019; Van Breda, 2018). Other studies (Moodley et al, 2020; Van Breda, 2018) also identified that youths who had a mentor (who served as a role model) were more likely to experience success in transitioning than those who had no mentor. Specifically, positive educational outcomes were reported among youths who had mentors (Dickens, 2018; Van Breda, 2018). Findings show that mentorship programmes allowed youths to exercise their relationship-building skills, which left them feeling positive, empowered and better equipped to regulate their emotions (Fredericks, 2018). Recommendations for practice from these articles included tailored interventions to enhance existing relationships and the facilitation of lasting mentoring relationships for youths aging out of residential care (Dickens, 2018; Fredericks, 2018; Van Breda, 2018).

Life-skills preparation

Life-skills preparation is an essential form of support for youths transitioning out of state care. In this review, four studies showed that life-skills education provided enhanced opportunities for youths in residential care to transition well into independent living (Dickens & Marx, 2020; Harder et al, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020). Other findings also pointed to the importance of life-skills preparation, which would include training in broad areas such as self-care, career development and daily living tasks (Bond, 2020; Dickens, 2018; Manuel et al, 2018; Obeng, 2020). Recommendations from youths who had participated in these studies were that there needs to be a balance between psychosocial interventions and life-skill programmes by social services organisations and social workers, geared toward easing their transition to independent living.

Providing opportunities for personal growth and resilience

Seven of the reviewed studies found that youths were not fully prepared and equipped for the transition to independent living. As a result, the youths faced many challenges, such as lack of permanent employment, homelessness, early parenthood and lack of income to meet their basic needs (Bond, 2020; Dickens & Marx, 2020; Fredericks, 2018; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley etal, 2020; Sekibo, 2020; Van Breda, 2018). Factors that enhanced the ability to cope were personal resilience, spirituality, optimism and meaningful relationships with teachers, families or lovers (Van Breda, 2018). Two studies reported that youths were able to develop resilience through a combination of their own determination and social support. Many had high hopes for their education, employment and accommodation, and believed that they had a good future (Bond, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020). Recommendations included CYCCs providing youths with opportunities for personal growth, a focused attempt to strengthen youths' social support networks, and the fostering of a spiritual life among the youth.

Social support networks

Findings from this scoping review show that social networks, whether formal or informal, positively affect transition outcomes (Bond, 2020; Bukuluki et al, 2020; Dickens & Marx, 2020; Mhongera & Lombard, 2018; Moodley et al, 2020; Sekibo, 2020; Sulimani-Aidan, 2020; Trif, 2018; Van Breda, 2018). Social networks were found to be significant and beneficial for promoting successful transition outcomes amongst youths in all the studies reviewed. Many studies recommended that CYCCs' transition programmes should include after-care support services for youths exiting residential care, and a deliberate attempt to strengthen both formal and informal social networks.

Three studies referred to youths receiving formal support from CYCC staff in the form of referrals to housing, along with educational and financial assistance (Bond, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020). In South Africa, these formal support networks involved youths' relationships with their social workers, CYCWs, CYCC managers and partners (Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020). Qualities of strong ties included stability, multidimensional support, advocacy, honesty and genuineness, areas of commonality, trust and small interconnected core networks (Moodley et al, 2020). Youths in these three studies knew they could go back to their CYCCs for assistance, which helped extend the care these youths received while transitioning to independent living (Bond, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020). A recommendation was that service providers learn the qualities that youths value in close relationships, so that they can better support relational permanency from multiple sources for youths aging out of residential care (Hlugwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020).

Many of the youths interviewed in these studies received support from the informal relationships they had formed with people in the CYCCs (Bond, 2020; Van Breda, 2018). Support took the form of money, visits, calls, babysitting and emotional support (Gwenzi, 2020; Hlungwani & Van Breda, 2020; Moodley etal, 2020; Takele & Kotecho, 2020; Trif, 2018; Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020). Participants typically trusted network members who were reliable and with whom they had regular contact (Bukuluki et al, 2020; Gwenzi, 2020; Mhongera & Lombard, 2018; Moodley et al, 2020; Takele & Kotecho, 2020). Recommendations were that CYCCs and support organisations strive to establish a strong foundation of support for youths, and that informal support networks be involved in transition preparation programmes.



This is the first scoping review to examine and map the available evidence on the social support interventions and social networks available to youths who are aging out of residential care, and as such represents a necessary first step for identifying gaps and developing guidelines for CYCCs. The findings of this scoping review also shed light on areas for future research.

The majority (23) of the reviewed studies evaluated the independent living interventions in CYCCs and examined care-leavers' experiences, while three examined policies and key lessons learned. The interventions mentioned in the studies all aimed to improve the outcomes for youths transitioning out of residential care to independent living, and to assist them in attaining housing, employment and successful educational outcomes. The studies reported positive outcomes in these areas among youths who went through a transition preparation programme and who had both pre- and post-care social support networks. Independent living interventions, in particular, were generally offered by the CYCCs, all of which were funded by the government (as opposed to being private residential care facilities). However, many studies evaluated the transition support offered to youths aging out of care as insufficient, and lacking proper guidelines and uniformity; in addition, some were implemented by untrained staff of CYCWs (Bond, 2020; Moodley et al, 2020; Van Breda, 2018). Many CYCCs attempt to provide support to youths but are not able to offer after-care support because of a lack of resources (Bond, 2020). Many do not have after-care policies, programmes and services for youths aging out of residential care, which leaves youths vulnerable to negative transition outcomes, such as homelessness, early parenthood, substance abuse and unemployment.

A few studies evaluated the effect of social support networks (both formal and informal) on the transition period for youths exiting care. Mentorship within social support networks resulted in more successful transitions to adulthood, as evidenced by higher rates of educational attainment, employment, standards of housing and quality of life among youths who had been paired with mentors (Fredericks, 2018, Moodley etal, 2020; Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020). Employment outcomes for youths transitioning out of CYCCs are generally poor, exacerbating the social challenges faced by youths who transitioned into independent living from CYCCs (Bond, 2020; Van Breda, 2018, Van Breda & Pinkerton, 2020). Studies in this scoping review support the view that youths who age out of CYCCs have less stable employment and lower earnings than youths in the general population.



Recommendations for practice

Social service professionals working in CYCCs and facilitating transition programmes should be sufficiently trained before they can render the service. Furthermore, transition support interventions need to focus on constructing positive identity, strengthening relationships in young people's microsystems and building resilience in youths aging out of CYCCs. Guidelines should be developed for CYCCs implementing transition support programmes. These guidelines should include a strong component of both pre-leaving preparation and post-leaving support. Part of the post-leaving support should take the form of mentorship relationships, so that care-leavers have at least one strong and caring adult in their social network. A range of after-care support services should continue for at least two years after young people have exited the CYCC.

Recommendations for future research

Longitudinal studies are needed to establish long-term outcomes of social support networks and to determine their impact on youth transition outcomes. Further research should be done to compare outcomes between youths who are reunited with their families upon leaving the CYCCs and those who transition straight into independent living. Moreover, cost-effectiveness studies are needed, in view of the fact that no studies were found that evaluated the cost-effectiveness of supporting young people's journey to independence compared to withdrawing support at the transition age of 18 years.

Recommendations for policy

The Children's Act 38 of 2005 (RS A, 2005) should stipulate what aspects of transition programmes form the minimum acceptable standard for youths aging out of CYCCs. The Department of Social Development (DSD), which governs CYCCs, should provide guidelines to CYCCs on transition services. In addition, DSD should have a policy on after-care support services for youths aging out of residential care, in order to support them with education scholarships and bursaries. Considering the high rate of unemployment in South Africa, the National Youth Development Plan should have a special policy that speaks to assisting youths exiting CYCCs with funds and help to promote entrepreneurship. The government, through the Department of Housing, should offer affordable housing to youths aging out of residential care. However, considering South Africa's housing crisis, this is a considerable challenge.



While extensive, this review may not have captured the entirety of all available data on this topic as the inclusion criteria limited the reviewed studies to English, peer-reviewed, open-access studies conducted between 2015 and 2020 on social networks and transitional services provided by CYCCs to youths aging out of residential care. All studies on foster care were excluded. Another limitation is the lack of comparison of services and programmes between studies within the same intervention category owing to the uniqueness of each transition support intervention.



This scoping review provides a map of the available evidence on interventions available to youths aging out of residential care. The review reinforces the need for further research, in view of the limitations of this review and of existing studies. Generally, all studies revealed that social support networks are essential for youths to ensure after-care support and successful transition outcomes, and yet these are for the most part lacking. Most youths indicated that they sought family and non-family support as they transitioned out of residential care. The findings of this review will be useful for future research on the topic and for CYCCs involved with implementing and evaluating interventions available to youths who are aging out of residential care.



ARKSEY, H. & O'MALLEY, L. 2005. Scoping studies: Towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology: Theory and Practice, 8(1): 19-32.         [ Links ]

ATTAR-SCHWARTZ, S. & HURI, Y. 2019. Grandparental support and life satisfaction among adolescents in residential care. Children and Youth Services Review, 96(1): 70-78.         [ Links ]

BOND, S. 2020. Care leavers' and their care workers' views of preparation and aftercare services in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Sage Journals, 8(1): 26-34.         [ Links ]

BOND, S. & VAN BREDA, A. D. 2018. Interaction between possible selves and the resilience of care-leavers in South Africa. Children and Youth Services Review, 94: 88-95.         [ Links ]

BUKULUKI, P. M., KAMYA, S., KASIRYE, R. & NABULYA, A. 2020. Facilitating the transition of adolescents and emerging adults from care into employment in Kampala, Uganda: A case study of Uganda youth development link. Sage Journals, 8 (1): 35-44.         [ Links ]

CAMPOS, G, GOIG, R. & CEUNCA, E. 2020. Relevance of the social support network for the emancipation of young adults leaving residential care. Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 18(50): 27-54. [Online] Available: [Accessed 1/08/2021].         [ Links ]

CRESWELL, J.W. 2014. Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. 4th ed. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.         [ Links ]

DICKENS, L. 2018. One-year outcomes of youth exiting a residential care facility in South Africa. Child & Family Social Work, 23(4): 558-565        [ Links ]

DICKENS, L. & MARX, P. 2020. NEET as an outcome for care leavers in South Africa: The case of Girls and Boys Town. Sage Journals, 8 (1): 64-72.         [ Links ]

DUTTA, S. 2018. Preparation for social reintegration among young girls in residential care in India. International Journal of Child, Youth & Family Studies, 9 (2): 151-170        [ Links ]

FREDERICKS, C. 2018. An exploratory study of the experiences of youth transitioning out of Child and Youth Care Centres in Cape Town to independent living. Cape Town: University of Cape Town. (Master's thesis)        [ Links ]

FRPMPONG-MANSO, K. 2020. Stories of care leaving: The experiences of a group of resilient young adults on their journey to interdependent living in Ghana. Sage Journals, 8 (1): 16-25.         [ Links ]

GWENZI, G. D. 2020. Constructing the meaning of 'family' in the context of out-of-home care: an exploratory study on residential care leavers in Harare, Zimbabwe. Sage Journals, 8(1): 54-63.         [ Links ]

HARDER, A. T., MANN-FEDER, V., OTERHOLM, I. & REFAELI, T. 2020. Supporting transitions to adulthood for youth leaving care: Consensus based principles. Science Direct, 116. [Online] Available: https://doi.Org/10.1016/i.childvouth.2020.105260 [Accessed 20/10/2020].         [ Links ]

HARRISON, J. P. 2019. Foster youth transitioning to independent living and higher education: a phenomenological study.Lynchburg, Virginia: Liberty University. Doctoral thesis. [Online] Available: [Accessed 12/08/20211.         [ Links ]

HLUNGWANI, J. & VAN BREDA, A. D. 2020. Female care leavers'journey to young adulthood from residential care in South Africa: Gender-specific psychosocial processes of resilience. Child & Family Social Work, 25(4): 915-923.         [ Links ]

LEV AC, D., COLQUHOUN, H & O'BRIEN, K. K. 2020. Scoping studies: Advancing the methodology. Implementation Science 5(69). [Online] Available: [Accessed 16/03/2021].         [ Links ]

LIU, R. H, IRWFN, J. D., & MORROW, D. 2015. Health behaviour outcomes of co-active coaching interventions: A scoping review. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 13(1): 15-42.         [ Links ]

MACDONALD, M., FARGAS-MALET, M., MARCO, J., PINKERTON, J., MATHEWS, S., KELLY, B & MONTGOMERY, L 2020 Evaluating the contribution of formal youth mentoring in promoting the well-being of care-experienced young people: SA-YES as a case study. [Online] Available: [Accessed 23/03/2021].         [ Links ]

MAMELANI PROJECTS 2020 Transitional Youth Programmes. For the Child & Youth Care Sector. [Online] Available: [Accessed 28/03/2020].         [ Links ]

MANUEL, J. I., MUNSON, M. R, DINO, M., VILLODAS, M. L., BARBA, A. & PANZER, P. G. 2018. Aging out or continuing on? Exploring strategies to prepare marginalized youth for a transition to recovery in adulthood. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 41(4): 258-265.         [ Links ]

MELKMAN, E. P. & BENBENISHTY, R. 2018. Social support networks of care leavers: Mediating between childhood adversity and adult functioning. ScienceDirect, 86(1): 176-187.         [ Links ]

MENDES, P. & MCCURDY, S. 2019. Policy and practice support for young people transitioning from out-of-home care: An analysis of six recent inquiries in Australia. Sage Journal of Social Work, 20(5): 599-619.         [ Links ]

MHONGERA, P. B. & LOMBARD, A. 2018. Promoting successful transition beyond institutional care: A programme-based service delivery model linked to a case management system. Social Work/ Maatskaplike Werk, 54(1): 53-68        [ Links ]

MOGALE, M. S. 2019. The experiences of youth who have aged out of non-kinship foster care in Tshwane Metro, Gauteng. Pretoria: University of Pretoria. (Mini dissertation). [Online] Available: [Accessed 16/03/2021].         [ Links ]

MOODLEY, R., RANINGA, T. & SEWPAUL, V. 2020. Youth transitioning out of residential care in South Africa: Toward ubuntu and interdependent living. Sage Journals, 8(1): 45-53.         [ Links ]

NURCOMBE-THORNE, A., NADESAN, V. S. & VAN BREDA, A. D. 2018. Experiences of T and 'we' among former looked-after children in South Africa. Child and Family Social Work, 23(4): 640-648.         [ Links ]

OBENG, J. K. 2020. Exploring the experiences of support in the life transitions of adolescent mothers living in care in Portugal. Portugal: University Institute of Lisbon. Master's dissertation. [Online] Available: [Accessed 5/09/2020],         [ Links ]

PETERS, M. D. J., GODFREY, C, MCINERNEY, P., MUNN Z., TRICCO, A. C. & KHALIL, H. 2020. Scoping Reviews In: AROMATARIS, E., MUNN, Z. (eds.). Joanna Briggs Institute Reviewer's Manual, JBI, 2020. [Online] Available: [Accessed 10/04/2021].         [ Links ]

PINKERTON, J., & VAN BREDA, A. D. 2019. Policy as social ecological resilience scaffolding for leaving care: a case study of South Africa. In MANN-FEDER, V. R. & GOYETTE, M. (eds.). Leaving care and the transition to adulthood. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, (pp. 87-104)        [ Links ]

REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA (RSA). 2005. Children's Act 38 of 2005. Government Gazette, Vol. 492, No. 28944 (19 June 2006). Pretoria: Government Printer.         [ Links ]

ROSENBERG, R. (2019). Social networks of youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood. Children and Youth Services Review, 107. [Online] Available: https://doi.Org/10.1016/i.childvouth.2019.104520 [Accessed 2/03/2020].         [ Links ]

SEKIBO, B. 2020. Experiences of young people early in the transition from residential care in Lagos State, Nigeria. Sage Journals, 8(1): 92-100.         [ Links ]

SOUTH AFRICAN YOUTH EDUCATION FOR SUSTAIN ABILITY (SAYes). 2019. SAYes Annual Report 2018 by SAYes Mentoring. [Online] Available: [Accessed 23/04/2021].         [ Links ]

SULEVIANI-AIDAN, Y. 2020. Challenges in the transition to adulthood of young-adult Arabs who graduated from residential facilities in Israel. Children and Youth Services Review, 113: 104967. [Online] Available: https://doi.Org/10.1016/i.childvouth.2020.104967 [Accessed 10/04/2021].         [ Links ]

TAKELE, A. M. & KOTECHO, M. G. 2020. Female care-leavers' experiences of aftercare in Ethiopia. Sage Journals, 8 (1): 73-81        [ Links ]

TRIF, G. 2018. Lost in Transition? The mitigating role of social capital in negotiating life after care of youth from Romania and England. UK: University of Kent. Doctor of Philosophy thesis [Online] Available: [Accessed 12/10/2020].         [ Links ]

VAN BREDA, A. D. 2018. An exploration of complex longitudinal relationships between care factors and post-care outcomes in South Africa. Children Australia, 43(2): 152-161.         [ Links ]

VAN BREDA, A. D. & PINKERTON, J. 2020. Raising African voices in the global dialogue on care-leaving and emerging adulthood. Sage Journals, 8 (1): 6-15.         [ Links ]

VERSTRAETE, J., PANNECOUCKE, I., MEEUS, B. & DE DECKER, P. 2018. Leaving an institution in Flanders, Belgium: a road to homelessness? Journal of Social Service Research, 44(5): 665-685.         [ Links ]

Creative Commons License All the contents of this journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License