Tales of transition: A qualitative multiple case study inquiry on the emancipation preparation of foster care adolescents

by Henderson, Terilyn Jones, Ph.D., SAYBROOK UNIVERSITY, 2006, 207 pages; 3412586


The majority of foster care studies have involved a focus on ensuring safety and permanency rather than on the life skills preparation of adolescents emancipating from foster care. This qualitative analysis of adolescents aging out of the California foster care system in 2002-2004 used a multiple case study approach to identify the factors that contribute to the preparation for transition from dependence to independence. The study participants were 4 youth aged 18 to 21 years who emancipated from the child welfare system in 2002-2004. All of the participants were females; 3 were African American, and 1 Mexican American. Three were identified as resilient (adaptive behavior that produced positive social and health outcomes arising from the interplay of risk and protective factors) and 1 was identified as having the potential to be resilient (in need of more time, more hope, and more incentives to resolve past family issues).

Personal demographics and background, childhood, family, placement history, relationships and social support networks, independent living services, and perceptions of readiness were explored through autobiographical interviews, a focus group interview, and informal participant observation. Results indicated that having caring adult relationships through which high expectations are communicated, making peace with past family and placement issues, and having the determination to conquer life’s challenges were the most important predictors of adolescent preparedness. Other key factors were involvement in experiential opportunities to integrate learning, sound educational bases, positive employment history and motivation, and sufficient income. Implications were drawn for further research on, and service delivery to, this population.

AdviserJeannette Diaz-Veizades
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsSocial work; Developmental psychology
Publication Number3412586

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