Complexities related to aging out of foster care: Life skills, self-sufficiency and trust
Rensburg, Elizabeth A.
Every year approximately 30,000 young adults age out of the foster care system. For over 25 years, there has been an abundance of research that has focused on the challenges of preparing foster youth for independent living. Former foster youths are not prepared adequately for self-sufficiency upon aging out of foster care. This study uses phenomenological interviews from four former foster youth to illicit their perceptions about aging out of foster care. The interviews were designed to investigate the following research questions: what are former foster youths’ experiences leaving foster care; what are their perceptions of how the system has or has not prepared them for independent living; and what are their perceptions of how the foster care system has or has not shaped their ability to form healthy attachments? Participants were young adults between the ages of 18-29 who had lived in foster care for a minimum of five years and who aged out of the foster care system. Interviews were digitally recorded and then transcribed using Microsoft Word 2007 and RCA digital voice manager. Analysis of the data revealed four findings that are supported by prior research. The participants in this study felt they did not learn the majority of independent living skills in a formal setting and the process of transitioning out of foster care was abrupt and difficult. They were able to form trusting relationships and they felt that despite all the difficulties they faced in foster care they had a better advantage growing up in foster care than they would have had with their biological families, which placed them on a different path in life. Implications for future research, counseling and the foster care system are discussed.