Foster youth aging out of foster care and their relationships with caregivers



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The current study focuses on foster youth who have aged out of the foster care system without permanent guardians. There is a need for research on the foster care system as a whole, but specifically there is a gap in research that does not address the relationships foster youth have with caregivers in foster care and when they age out. Much of the literature today discusses that foster youth face various negative outcomes when they age out, but they do not address the relationships that are involved in how foster youth progress through the foster care system and after leaving care to live independently. Qualitative methods were used to conduct in-depth interviews with 5 foster youth who aged out of the foster care system in the past 5-7 years. Grounded theory and Thematic Network Analysis (TNA) was used to identify organizing networks that described characteristics of the relationships foster youth reported. Foster youth described having supportive and unsupportive relationships with foster parents, house parents, kinship guardians, and caseworkers. Foster youth also described reunification relationships as ambivalent and remote after aging out. Other areas that were discussed included: extended foster care placement, independent living, and the aftercare program. The results from the current study could be used to improve services for foster youth and foster parents in helping identify supportive characteristics in supportive foster youth-parent relationships.



Foster youth, Foster care relationships, Aging out