Document Type

Theses, Masters


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Sociology, Social work., Law, Social sciences

Publication Details

Submitted in Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Award of MPhil, School of Social Sciences and Law, Technological University Dublin, November 2012.


The transition to adulthood is difficult for most young people. It is a time when young people make important decisions about their lives including their future education, career and living arrangements. Most young people have strong family and social networks to support them in these decisions. However, young people leaving residential care are often expected to make this transition abruptly and at a young age with no family or social networks to support them. The leaving and aftercare supports provided by the State are often not sufficient to provide for the needs of these young people leaving them at risk of homelessness, substance abuse, low levels of educational attainment and unemployment. In order to gain a better understanding of the experiences of care leavers this study explores the journey of twenty young people who had travelled into, through and from the residential care system. In doing so, the differences and similarities of the participant’s pre-care and in-care experiences were explored as well as the difficulties and challenges they faced throughout their journey, along with the experiences that shaped and informed their transition to adulthood and independence. The study identified three distinct transitions from residential care, those that had travelled a smooth transition, those that had experienced an unstable transition but whose circumstances improved over time and those whose transition was volatile or considerably more problematic and who are still mired in precarious social circumstances. The transitions highlight the diversity of the participants’ experiences in such a way that emphasize more clearly the supports that enable some participants to transition successfully and the barriers that lead others towards social exclusion. The findings indicate that the participants’ outcomes upon leaving residential care were ultimately dependent on the level of preparation given prior to leaving residential care, the level of the young person’s involvement in the leaving care process, the type of post-care housing/accommodation offered and the availability or absence of resources and supports post residential care. What is important about this research is the detailed and reflective accounts provided by young people, which give human resonance to the care leavers’ experiences.