My primary research focus at the moment, for which I have funding from the National Research Foundation, is on young people's transition out of care and into independent living. My primary partner for this research is Girls and Boys Town South Africa (GBT). We have a three-phased research strategy. Phase 1 is complete, Phase 2 started in 2013 and is ongoing and Phase 3 starts in 2016.
- Phase 1 was a retrospective, grounded theory study of young people (men) who had left GBT's care several years previously. We used an unstructured interview schedule to elicit their narrative of their journey out of care, from the time they left GBT until the present moment. From that we were able to construct a nascent theory of successful care-leaving. This work has been presented at several conferences and published in the Journal of Youth Studies.
- Phase 2 is a longitudinal rolling cohort study of young people (male and female) starting at the time they are about leave GBT's care and continuing annually until we run out of funds or are finding nothing new in our data. At the baseline interview, we collect data using the Youth Ecological-Resilience Scale that we developed and validated locally, together with a semi-structured interview with the youth and a semi-structured questionnaire that their social workers complete that gives us the youth's history. Every 12 months thereafter, we interview the care-leavers again. We do an unstructured narrative interview with them (similar to what we did in Phase 1), the participate in a structured interview focused on independent living outcomes and complete a self-administered outcomes scale. From this study, we hope to achieve several insights, including prospectively understanding the journey of leaving care and identifying resilience factors that facilitate more successful transitioning. This is the only longitudinal care-leaving study in South Africa.
- Phase 3 is also a longitudinal rolling cohort study focused on young people from the time they come into care until the time they leave. Thus Phase 3 is the in-care period before Phase 2, and in a few years the two phases will merge and become one continuous study. Here we are interested to learn if we can, while children are still in care, develop the resilience processes that Phase 2 indicates will increase the likelihood of positive post-care outcomes.
This research is support by a number of other research projects that I or my students are busy with, including:
- Comparative quantitative studies using (largely) the same data collection tools as used in Phase 2 but with young people transitioning out of secondary education in suburban, township and deep rural schools. Most of these children were living at home with their parents or families at the time they matriculated (i..e completed secondary school) providing points of comparison for young people leaving care.
- Comparative quantitative studies of young people leaving the care of other organisations, to provide natural 'experiments' in which the transitional outcomes of young people receiving other programmes (i.e. other than GBT's programme) can be compared.
- A qualitative study of young women who left care several years previously, to provide a comparison with the Phase 1 results which were generated with only men.
- A qualitative study of care-leavers' transition into university.
- A qualitative study of the resilience and future selves of young people preparing to leave care.
- A quantiative or mixed methods study of young people transitioning out of foster care, providing comparative data for young people leaving residential care.
- A situational analysis of care-leaving services provided by child and youth care centres in Gauteng province.
In addition to this, I am doing a study on the challenges faced by university students during their first year of study, and the kinds of resilience factors and processes they mobilised to assist them in navigating these challenges.
I'm quite busy!!