Date of Award

Fall 12-18-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Nursing

First Advisor

Dr. Ptlene Minick

Second Advisor

Dr. Joan Cranford

Third Advisor

Dr. Peter Lyons

Abstract

ABSTRACT

AGING OUT OF FOSTER CARE: THE EXPERIENCES OF FORMER FOSTER

YOUTH WHO SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATED THIS TRANSITION

by

MARGOT HEDENSTROM

Foster youth face high risks and poor outcomes after aging out of care resulting in great economic and human costs to society. The purpose of the study was to describe life experiences of children aging out of the foster care system from the perspectives of adults who have successfully navigated this transition. Their life experiences during this period provided meaningful information for this study which helped to identify themes.

Phenomenology was used to describe the experiences of nine young adults who had aged out of foster care. Participant ages ranged from 20 to 25 years old. Audiotaped semi-structured interviews were conducted for the study. Data analysis was ongoing throughout data collection as described by Diekelmann and Allen (1989) and expanded by Minick (1992). Four themes and five sub themes were identified: 1) ‘Facing a transition’ which had three sub themes of ‘abrupt transition,’ ‘smooth but uneven transition,’ and ‘smooth transition;’ 2) ‘Depending on adults for help’ which had two sub themes of ‘receiving support’ and ‘asking for support;’ 3) ‘Making a difference for others; and 4) ‘Moving forward with my life.’ These four themes highlighted the participants’ experiences as they aged out of foster care.

This study contributes to our understanding of the life experiences of former foster youth who are successful after the transition out of foster care. Recommendations for practice, education, and research are identified.

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