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Paper

Transitioning out of residential care in Jordan: pathways and outcomes. Emerging findings and recommendations from a doctoral research study in progress

abstract

Background

Research concerning children and youth involved in the Jordanian child welfare system is limited. Studies regarding youth leaving care are sparse. What is available focuses on negative circumstances within care homes (the main form of substitute care). This qualitative study, explores pathways of youth transitioning to adulthood from residential care. It also examines preparedness for discharge, and factors shaping current outcomes in the Jordanian context. Namely, an absence of both minimum care standards and post care support legislation, limited formal provisions, all within a difficult socio-economic period impacting all youth transitioning to adulthood.

Aims

  • Explore pathways of a sample of care leavers in Jordan, and how prepared they were.
  • Identify factors contributing to current outcomes.
  • Begin fulfilling a knowledge gap in the area of leaving care, elicit lessons for practice, policy and future research.
  • Equally important, begin giving this population a voice.

Methods

Beginning from several access points and employing snowballing sampling (due to lack of records), semi-structured interviews were conducted to gain qualitative insight into experiences and 'life history' of care leavers, particularly in a Jordanian context. The sample consists of 42 recent and more long standing care leavers (21 females, 21 males) who were in care for a minimum of two years as teenagers. A small questionnaire was administered with the aim of gathering a general statistical profile. In addition, 2 focus groups (1 for females, 1 for males) were conducted to discuss and share emerging findings, as well as increase their valued involvement in my research. The interviews are translated from Arabic and transcribed in English. Analysis is conducted utilizing NVivo and manual thematic coding, based on a grounded theory approach.

Key findings

Preliminary findings suggest preparation and assistance for leaving care is sporadic and limited. In addition, political prioritisation on young people transitioning from care is lacking. Emerging analysis suggests these young people are struggling to cope economically. They are also burdened and struggling to balance and cope with survival responsibilities conventionally considered parental, at very young ages. In many cases, experiences of institutionalisation appear to increase their vulnerability. Moreover, this particular group of young people in need, do not 'fit the Jordanian mould', and, in many ways, are cast out of the 'Jordanian family'. Thus they struggle with stigma and coping with the strong cultural norms and expectations of Jordanian culture (where identity and family are so important). On the other hand, general awareness of their situation seems to be increasing, as are some services. From early analysis, despite preparation and post care support being limited, what was provided was meaningful and beneficial, thus offering lessons for good practice, and policy formation to enhance both the residential care system, and post care lives.

 Recommendations and implications

  • Deinstitutionalizing care homes to become more family based, and minimize change of placements (including schools).
  • Minimum standards and qualifications need to be established for all staff working with young people.
  • Establishment of minimum standards to:

- Include individual care plans incorporating developmental dimensions, family assessments and family intervention, as well as long term preparation.

- Discharge eligibility to include a pathway plan which is established with each young person, and must include a qualified personal advisor. Cultural issues minimizing stigma should indeed be considered, however, discharge to families and 'marriage' should not be taken for granted.

  • A research-based policy supporting care leavers must be established and include specified follow-up criteria for an extended time frame (e.g. to age 24).
  • Further research concerning children born out of marriage must be conducted, with consideration to ameliorating stigmatizing policies, which seem to solely focus on protecting identities of birth families.
  • Establishment of an independent 'monitoring and evaluation' body (M and E) especially for youth admitted to care, to ensure adequate implementation of minimum standards, unite and evaluate the quality of services provided (during and post care), promote the welfare of both youth in and post care, as well as continue to develop services, policies and legislation. The MandE body should have public awareness programmes ameliorating stigma experienced by children in care.

 Key references

Ibrahim, R. (2008) 'Jordan' in M. Stein and E.R. Munro (eds) Young People's Transitions from Care to Adulthood: International Research and Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

 Alayan and UNICEF (2002) Evaluation of Rehabilitation Centers for Juveniles and Care Centers in Jordan. (Unpublished Study)

Contact details Rawan W. Ibrahim, School of Social Work and Psychosocial Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ. Email: R.Ibrahim@uea.ac.uk

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