Breaking the Cycle Together: Foster Youth in High School and the Impact of Adult Supporters.
UCLA Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
University of California, Los Angeles.
x, 136 p.
Each year there are over 400,000 youth living in out-of-home placement across the nation due to alleged child abuse, neglect, the loss of a parent(s), and/or behavior problems. As a result of being removed from their homes and moving between different placements and schools, foster youth can experience high levels of stress and developmental challenges as they struggle to cope with such extreme emotional turbulence. Each year 6% of these foster youth will transition out of care, leaving them with no support in the way of family or program assistance to help with housing, job placement, or options in higher education. Of the 6% of students who age out of the system each year, 5-13% enroll in higher education institutions and only 2% will graduate and obtain a bachelor’s or other advanced degree. As it is seemingly uncommon for foster youth to matriculate to postsecondary education, I examined how successful foster youth transitioned out of care and chose to further their education at an academically rigorous institution.
Through former foster youth’ own accounts of their success during high school which led them to UCLA, as well as the perspectives of the adults who supported them in their educational journey, I examined common threads in what contributed to their positive educational outcomes despite the harsh realities they experienced. Using a sequential multiple methods study, former foster youth who are currently enrolled at UCLA were surveyed and interviewed to provide the context of their successful journey through K-12 and onto higher education. The adults involved in these youth’ academic success were also interviewed to gain further insight into the supports needed for foster youth as they prepared and decided to pursue their studies at a university. My findings show that adult supporters provided guidance, emotional support, and stability, which allowed students to move out of their negative past experiences. Adults’ willingness to assist youth and be a part of their lives provided students with a transformative academic and social emotional environment, furthering their ability to persist through high school and gain acceptance to a top-tier university. (Author abstract)
foster adolescents; school issues; stress; adolescent development; problems; academic achievement; aging out; postsecondary education; stability; foster care alumni; interviews; education; outcomes