The goal of the study was to explore the experiences of youths who have aged out of non-kinship foster care in the Tshwane Metro, Gauteng Province. A qualitative approach was adopted with the instrumental case study as the most suitable qualitative research design for this study. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data from 12 selected youths from Atteridgeville, Sunnyside, Eesterust and Mamelodi West Child Welfare offices with the aid of an interview schedule.
Most of the youths in the study had exited foster care because of the regulated age limit that can only be extended to 21 on conditions stipulated in section 180 of the Children‟s Act 38 of 2005. The participants highlighted their experiences while they were living with foster families and mostly appreciated the fact that their foster parents provided them with an opportunity to belong to a family. However, the study revealed that many participants exited foster care abruptly with no financial, adult or any other support required to transition successfully to adulthood. The participants did not receive any preparatory services from social workers for their transition to adulthood. The findings also revealed that most of the youths faced social challenges, behavioural and psychological challenges, unemployment, financial instability, poor educational or vocational opportunities and lack of safe and affordable housing. Based on the findings, it can be concluded that the legislation and policies that regulate the placement of children in foster care have not considered fully the developmental needs of children and youth who are transitioning out of care. The age limit of foster care prevents many youths who are going through the transitional period from completing their secondary education and training as required, as most of them continue with secondary education beyond the age of 21. Inadequate support and lack of transitional preparatory programmes for youth who are ageing out of foster care have a tremendous impact on young people‟s transition to adult life, as they are left to face adversity on their own.
As a result of various challenges that youths who have aged out of foster care experience after they exit the system, it is recommended that the Department of Social Development should ensure the implementation of preparatory programmes to be rendered by all child protection organisations and government social workers, designed for youth who are ageing out of the foster care system. This will ensure that social workers carry out their role of guaranteeing that all young people who are ageing out of foster care are provided with relevant skills and capacity as they transition to adulthood. Furthermore, such programmes could enhance the lives of many youths after they have exited the system, since they will be empowered with valuable skills and knowledge to face life after foster care.