Document Type

Long-term Community Adaptation of Children and Youth Receiving Residential Mental Health Services

Publication Date



Faculty of Social Work


Twenty-two youth between the ages of 14 and 18 years old who were involved with residential programs from participating children’s mental health organizations in Southern Ontario, Canada during 2015 to 2017 participated in a study of adaptation to community living in the first year following program exit. Youth, parents, child welfare workers, and mental health workers took part in qualitative interviews up to three times during the study period. Interview comments were used to construct a narrative or “story” of the year following program exit that integrated multiple informants’ perspectives of how each youth was functioning within that timeframe. Stories for youth who returned home to live with their families (12 youth) were examined together to explore any common experiences or processes that described the post-discharge daily living of this group of youth and their families. Similarly, the stories of youth who resided in the care of the Children’s Aid Society following program exit (10 youth) were explored for commonalities that could offer insight into their community adaptation experiences. Study findings underscore the need for proactive and flexible aftercare programming to improve community living outcomes for youth leaving residential mental health programs.