Youth who age out of group homes and transitional living programs with serious mental health needs can abruptly lose critical supports, including housing and mental health treatment access. Little is known about how these particularly vulnerable youth navigate these large shifts in support. Twenty youth diagnosed with serious mental health conditions completed three in-depth interviews (within four-months of planned emancipation and at six- and 12-months post-emancipation). Brief monthly check-ins prevented attrition. Participants transitioned from a receiver/complier role in a mental health treatment context pre-emancipation to a provider/exchanger role in a poverty context post-emancipation. Independence was short-lived post-emancipation; temporary emancipation funds and disability benefits provided a brief cushion. Participants were unprepared for navigation of mutual social support exchanges. Child welfare providers who aim to prepare youth for independence post-emancipation must better understand the social context youth age into, as well as youth's desired and required resource exchanges.
- Aging out
- Serious mental health conditions
- Social role shifts
- Social support
- Transition to adulthood