Transition within transition: how young people learn to leave behind institutional care whilst their carers are stuck in neutral
journal contributionposted on 2023-08-30, 13:38 authored by Roxana Anghel
This paper discusses findings from a qualitative longitudinal study which explored the process of leaving long-stay institutional state care in Romania during 2002–4, a period at the heart of accelerated EU enforced childcare reform. 28 young people were interviewed before leaving care and 17 were tracked up to 8 months after discharge. 18 practitioners were also interviewed. The findings confirmed Pinkerton's (2006) emphasis on the impact of global and national factors on the individual experience of leaving care. This study took place in a country undergoing widespread change. The care leavers' irreversible transition took place within the simultaneous professional transition of their carers and that of the community with which they needed to integrate. This insight is widely relevant in the current context of public funding cuts and changes in welfare policy in many countries, including the Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries. Bridges (2009) was used to understand the experiences of care leavers and their carers. Bridges stresses the role of the leader in creating protective conditions for traversing three unavoidable transition stages: 1. ending old identity/behaviour; 2. a neutral zone of deconstruction and transformation; and 3. a new beginning. Preparation for leaving care can be viewed as learning to end care, followed by the neutral zone which begins at discharge. When lacking family support, formal carers are the young people's main transition guides. However, their professional transition also needs management. Because of top-down, accelerated childcare reforms, the Romanian carers' transitions appeared stuck in the neutral zone, affecting preparation for leaving care. Yet, the availability of learning opportunities after discharge changed the nature of the neutral zone for most of the sample who did better than expected at follow-up. This, supported by Bridges' proposal that learning during transition influences future coping, offers a foundation for new theory.
Publication titleChildren and Youth Services Review
- Accepted version