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The Perspectives of Former Foster Youth About University Supports


This study examined the obstacles former foster youth faced during their undergraduate years at two highly selective public institutions in Southern California and the supports they say their universities provided to help them persist toward graduation. Former foster youth graduate college at a rate much lower than non-former foster youth. Extant literature around former foster youth focuses on poor outcomes such as homelessness and low academic achievement common to this population; however, the purpose of this was to discover what former foster youth say helped them to obtain their bachelor's degrees. The theoretical framework for this study was a framework of equity wherein I argued that the former foster youth's colleges were responsible for providing services to meet this population's personal and academic needs to remove any barriers to college completion. I used a phenomenological qualitative research design for this study and conducted hour-long interviews with 12 former foster youth—seven college graduates and five graduating seniors. The findings indicate that former foster youth encounter obstacles such as trouble with transferring from community colleges, mental health problems and financial struggles. According to the former foster youth of this study, key people, programs and financial aid were on-campus supports that helped them persist through their undergraduate years. The data imply that there is still a need for more tutoring and career development opportunities for this population. Overall, these twelve former foster youth tended to have positive perceptions of earning their bachelor's degrees and seemed to be resourceful in finding on-campus solutions to problems despite some barriers that proved to be ongoing obstacles. In light of the findings from this research study, educational leaders should provide consistent funding for services for former foster youth and former foster youth liaisons should implement new programming to meet former foster youth's needs as they arise.

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