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Mental Health and Care Leavers

How Effective Services of Mentoring impacted on Mental Health and Care Leavers?

These studies utilized qualitative research methodology because of its effectiveness for the control and ownership of research process and direct involvement of research participants’ context and allowed collaborative dialogue between researchers and respondents. One major loophole in qualitative methodology is that it involves recruitment of voluntary and inexperienced workers which may give room for personal bias in the research process.

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The research process by (Lopata, 2011) was divided into three stages. Stage one was the recruitment of research assistants involving Young Peoples Panel (YPP), designing of interview questionnaire material and training of YPP members in interviewing techniques. In stage two the research liaised with three local authorities in the UK and got approval to conduct the research. Interviews were conducted and audio interviews were recorded. The third stage involves transcription of audio interviews recorded, drafting of findings and result and development of recommendation base on research findings. In-depth interview was conducted with 14 youth care givers from 3 local authority areas between February and March 2011. Findings from the study revealed that negative life experiences among care leavers have always been compounded by lack of adequate knowledge of their needs, large service deficiencies experienced while in care and how such needs could be met. The study also found that majority of care leavers move to independent living between age 16 and 18 compared to their non-care peers who lived with parents until their twenties. The factors make young care leavers more likely than their peer to recur for public services at any age which they need it during their transition to adulthood. Care leavers possess adequate knowledge about some public services such as Jobcentre plus, NHS and GP services; and financial support services but very poor knowledge of existence of emotional, behavioural and psychological problem support were identified among the interviewed care leavers. Also majority of the study sample possess little or no knowledge about the availability of services such as supported accommodation services/housing benefits, drug use advice and citizen advise bureau. Some that have the knowledge of existence of this services lack awareness of how and where to access them. The study concluded by recommending that care givers, local authorities as well as the general public have the responsibility to ensure that young care givers are properly oriented about the availability of these support services and how to access them to facilitate successful transition into independent living. It is only by having a proper availability of services related to advocacy as well as peer mentorship may led to provision of proper care.

While in the studies by Clayden and Stein, 2005; Care leavers in the study were from 13 projects comprising 181 mentoring relations between mentors and mentees, which included reports from their referral forms which was collated to facilitate mentoring connections. Their meeting times were recorded. These includes length of meeting, files on the sessions.  The mentees also completed own form.  There were some limitations in the research which could have affected compilation of data, since various organizations might need specific information and the study could only deal with the particular need in the research.  Missing data were not accurately recorded or accounted for.

Demographics of care leavers

An almost equal balance between male and female care leavers were selected in their study comprising the research which began in 1 march until 28 February 2002 (51 per cent, 91) males and (44 per cent, 88) females totalling 179. Their average age was 17 years (n=167) since their ages range from 15 years to 23 years when the process of mentoring them started. This follows policy procedures which stipulates that mentoring care leavers could only be applied between 16 and 21 years. The age was inclusive in my criteria of 16-17 year old. Although my exclusion criteria was 18 years and above. The reasons for the selection of the sample was methodical, ethical consideration was moderate. The impact of mentoring was reported to be low where the focus or target was anticipated, for instance in one of the mentoring samples where focus was emotional well-being, relationship with family and social network including psychological well-being, the impact of mentoring was high for the participant in terms of various skills such as improvement in relationships, well-being, resilience, ability to solve problems, completing task given and, taking responsibility and also ability to manage stressful situations, an also live independently. Although one of the female mentees in the research was not able to achieve educationally, gain employment nor secure adequate accommodation, she was able to improve on parenting skills and also support from Child Care Services.  She also achieved on how to interview though training in interview techniques and was able to be on the interview panel where mentors were assessed. She was able to take positive steps in her future plans.  She also improved on how she communicates with others.  In this research only  care leavers were successful in realising their plans. Majority 93% of participants had achieved positively at the end of mentoring session, this was known through the recordings in the mentor’s file. Their mental health improved from their sessions with mentors. From the study it can be analysed that mentorship should be such that it should led to an overall improvement in the relationship, well being as well as managing the stressful situations in the best possible manner.

Mentors ensured that care leaver had nurses who worked together with them through flexible times fixed for the convenience of the youth in an easily connected manner so that they can access services in healthcare centres, their foster homes.

Biehal and Wade (1996) carried out a longitudinal primary study to investigate the transition experiences of a sample of young care leavers in three local authorities in England over the first 18-24 month of their transition to independence. The study drew from the findings of a four-year Department of Health funded research carried out at the University of Leeds England. The study also explored the patterns of informal support with both biological and substitute families for care leavers and how such families’ supports can negate challenges of independent living. A survey design of descriptive analysis was used. A sample of 183 care leavers were drawn from these three local authorities and completed survey questionnaire within 3-9 months of leaving the care. Interview questions specifically focus on their experience of being looked after such as the quality of placement, they experience, patterns of movement, educational progress, early housing related issues, employment options, development of life skills and patterns of formal and informal network of social support. 74 semi-structured interviews were also conducted with care leavers shortly after leaving care. A total of 28 postal questionnaires were completed by social workers to draw useful information about different patterns of leaving care and outcomes in the crucial first few months of leaving care. The survey questions with social workers cover similar grounds like those completed by care leavers. This methodology used allowed the researchers to gather useful data on the experiences and opinions of those involved (carers and care givers) so as to arrive at informed conclusion about impact of professional intervention and care leavers experience in transition. Meanwhile, the reliability and validity of the research instrument used as well as the sample selection method were not clearly explained in the research report. Also the representativeness of the studied samples among care leavers cannot be ascertained in the three local authorities. Findings from the study shows that 56% had entered care as a teenager, more than half had been in care for over10 years. Majority of them had experienced several movements and disruptions in placement during the time they spent in care, one third had made four or more moves during their stay while only 16% had stable placement throughout. The study also revealed that generally effective transition into independence is associated with the quality of formal and informal support from both biological and substitute families of care leavers. Based on these findings the study recommends that priority should be given to continuing professional efforts by local authorities and care givers and carers to improve family connections as one useful strategy to negotiate challenges confronting care leavers in transition.

Mayock and Veckic, (2006) in another study used a longitudinal cohort design to study a sample of 40 care leavers between the age of 12 -22.   The study was aimed to determine youth and after care homelessness in Dublin Ireland. Out of the 40 cases, 16 (40%) were reported to have a range of varied public care histories. The first phase of the study also reported that extending hard drug use was a common experience encountered among the young people in the sample. Chronic homelessness, unemployment and low life skills were also identified among the studied population. The study also revealed that many leave the care in unplanned ways or what is called ‘crisis transition’ because there exist a obvious lack of national policy of guaranteed continued and consistent after care provisions that will cushion the various challenges of adulthood for young care leavers.  In identifying such policy deficiencies, the study pointed out that Child Care Act 1991 which is a typical example of after care policy in Ireland for instance mandated the provision of aftercare supports for care leavers but unfortunately does not include their health needs. Therefore, the study concludes by suggesting that a less conservative national policy be put in place to guarantee consistent provision of necessary supports for care leavers. Also the study proposed the extension of formal care leaving age to 21 years from the current 18 years.  Provision of pre-service and in-service training for careers as social workers was also highlighted as a key factor that will equip the practitioners with the needed skills to provide adequate in-care and out-care support and mentoring for foster youth.

Biehal et al, (1995) studied a sample of 74 young people aged 16 -19 to investigate different living care schemes and approaches to leaving care in three local authorities (city county and district).  Methods used include participant observation, in-depth interview and analysis of policy documents. A wide range of diversity of experience was identified in the later lives of care leavers. The study argue that unplanned or ‘crisis’ transition compounded with the fact that care leavers assume adult responsibilities too quickly at early age than their non-care peer have made certain negative life conditions such as loneliness, isolation, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, constant movement, mental health deficiencies in them. Outcome dimensions of leaving care were measured and grouped under such categories as accommodation, life skills, education, health, career path, and relationship and social network. These categories of outcome dimensions of care leaving shall be discussed more extensively under different headings this section.

Supporting Secondary Studies

Wade and Munro (2008) used exploratory study to develop knowledge on how care leavers fare in adulthood after transitions in the UK. Due to Data protection and Human Rights legislation which limits access to useful database, National Cohort Development Survey (NCDS) provided the secondary data for the study. Findings from the study revealed that high risk of further movement and disruption, high unemployment and homelessness, high risk of social exclusion are commonly found among care leavers in adulthood. Also, limited after care a service which consequently affects better transition, stability, better educational attainment, were also identified in the study as common experiences of care leavers. There is evidence from the study  that care leavers are faced with possibilities of assuming adult role and independent living at a  much younger age than their peers (Stein, 2005; Mayock and Vekic, 2006), which tends to result  in their inability to cope with the challenges of independent living. For instance, limited planning before transition and consultation with their foster homes after transition may hinder their ability to manage homes and parenting successfully (Lamont et al, 2009).  Also, the study revealed that certain negative experiences of young people’s pre-care such as emotional and behavioural problems may have significantly adverse effects on their progress even after transition. The authors concluded by contending that although the conditions of care leavers after transition is not determined by their past experiences, however, practitioners and public institutional supports are inevitable in housing, financial support, life skills and in reducing risk of social isolation if care leavers must have successful transitions and fare well in adulthood compared to their non-looked after peers.

Fauth,Hart and Payne (2012) in a sponsored research, titled ‘supporting care leavers’ successful transition to independent living’ reported summary highlight of the first stage of a five-year primary study that was aimed to examine strategies that work in supporting young care leavers successful transition into adulthood. Among the objectives, the study aimed to examine the best model of mentoring and one-on-one after-care support to assist care leavers into better education, life skills training, employment and positive transition outcomes. The study shows that a successful transition into adulthood is positively relative of the quality of care experience in general and the specific mentoring directed at the transition process.
In the breakdown of overview of support received by young care leavers Ofsted, 2012 cited in Fauth, Hart and Payne (2012), noted that 75% of young people who were soon leaving the care are getting in-care support to prepare them for life as independent adults, 56% were getting support to prepare them for higher education after transition and 52% were receiving help in getting a job upon transition while 13% were getting no support at all.  For care leavers 60% had solid pathway plans, 12% had no such plan while others were not certain. 85% had a personal mentor/ social worker assigned to them. As at the time of this report, 64% were in education, 6% in paid job, 6% were receiving in-work-training while 29% were neither in education or work training. In terms of their housing commission 21% rated their accommodation as very good or good, 18% rated theirs as okay while only 11% expressed that their accommodation was bad or very bad. Among the care leaver, 59% were getting support to prepare for life of independence as an adult, 40% were being prepared for higher education and 32% were receiving help in getting a job.  While 23% reported that they were not receiving support at all compared to 17% found in 2010. 24% reported cases of bullying and social exclusion because they had been in care.

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