Transitioning to adulthood from residential childcare during COVID-19: Experiences of young people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorder in South Africa

Wendy M. Mupaku, Adrian D. van Breda, Berni Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background:
This study focuses on young people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism who, due to child welfare concerns, have grown up in children's residential care and are now transitioning out of care at the age of 18 years towards young adulthood. This transition is termed “care leaving” and the young people in transition “care leavers”. The care leaving transition can be particularly difficult for young people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism. These challenges can be magnified in a time of a global crisis like COVID-19, which has resulted in countries being on lockdown and care leavers’ transitions being curtailed. Many mental health problems have emerged due to the COVID-19 outbreak and resultant lockdown that may negatively impact on the care leaving transition of young people with intellectual disabilities.

Methods:
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six care leavers with intellectual disabilities and their three caregivers in June 2020 in the Cape Peninsula region of South Africa to explore the impact of COVID-19 on their transitional journeys.

Findings:
Three core themes emerged from the analysis: young people evidenced regression of independence, rather than the expected growth in young adult independence, due to disruptions to routines and opportunities to move out into the world; some young people experienced an exacerbation or emergence of mental health problems, which impacted on their transition to young adulthood; and young people and their caregivers experienced a deepening of caregiver relationships, which enhanced the transition of the care leaver.

Conclusions:
Services must continue to facilitate progress towards independence and promote personal and caregiver well-being. Support service for care leavers with intellectual disabilities should be essential services, offered in person or online while adhering to COVID-19 regulations. Caregivers should be trained in continuing independent and interdependent living programmes for care leavers in their care, supported through in person or online training, mentoring and supervision. Service continuity is recommended to avoid the contraction of young people's social world at a time when it should be opening up
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-351
JournalBritish Journal of Learning Disabilities
Volume49
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 14 Jul 2021

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