Social networks during the transition to adulthood from the perspective of Israeli care leavers and their social workers

Yafit Sulimani-Aidan - Children and Youth Services Review


Based on the resilience theory, which highlights the role of one’s social resources in fostering resilience (Masten, Obradović, & Burt, 2006), the current study explored the role of care leavers' formal and informal social networks during the transition to adulthood, from the point of view of 50 young adults and their social workers. The themes that arose highlighted the contribution of the care leavers’ formal social networks (i.e., social workers, counselors) via their enabling of care leavers’ self-exploration, their provision of practical support, and their promotion of care leavers’ positive perceptions of the future. Although the contribution made by the care leavers’ informal social networks was limited, findings indicated the importance of these networks for the care leaver's sense of belonging and normalcy, stability, and need for empathy and understanding. The discussion elaborates on the role of social networks, as a powerful asset for care leavers, during this challenging period. In terms of practice, it is recommended that care leavers continue to receive support from various formal figures in their lives who can assess their needs holistically and promote their daily independent living and future accomplishments. Also, professionals in the field should acknowledge the importance of informal social ties as a resource that can be used to promote care leavers' well-being and sense of belonging, and should consider them a therapeutic tool to be used in their work with this population.