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Examining Postsecondary Education Perceptions of Former Foster Care Youth

Schoos, Ketwana D. (2018) Examining Postsecondary Education Perceptions of Former Foster Care Youth. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Nationally, youth with experiences in the foster care system are enrolling and graduating from
postsecondary education institutions at rates that are far behind their non-foster peers, with less
than 10% earning associate’s degrees or higher (Rios & Rocco, 2014; Wolanin, 2005). This study examines the perceptions of former foster care youth to gain a deeper understanding of how they perceive the role of postsecondary education, as well as their potential to succeed. Foster care youth are the most important stakeholder in terms of their care, yet their voice is the least present in the existing literature.

The qualitative design of the study merges Emerging Adulthood Theory (Arnett 2000,2007) and the concept of social capital (Coleman, 1988) to frame the priorities of older foster care youth as they prepare to transition out of the foster care system. Study participants included
eight former foster care youth, ages 18-21. Hermeneutic phenomenology is the methodological approach utilized to underscore commonalities between the lived experiences of the study participants, as well as how they discern the significance of postsecondary education. Data was collected through in-depth, in-person, semi-structured interviews and coded for themes.

Major findings illustrate: (1) complex family dynamics that greatly influence the lived experiences of foster care youth; (2) long-term mental, emotional, and behavioral health effects of multiple transitions and placements; (3) deteriorating outlook on school based upon K-12 educational experiences after entering foster care; (4) unclear pathways, or general disinterest, in
postsecondary education immediately upon exiting the foster care system; and (5) priorities, as well as self-defining success, after leaving foster care. The theoretical, research and practical implications encourage care providers and educators to reconsider the traditional approaches that have been utilized when working with and supporting foster care youth.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Schoos, Ketwana D.kds67@pitt.edukds670000-0003-3070-2583
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDeAngelo, Lindadeangelo@pitt.edudeangelo
Committee MemberGunzenhauser, Michaelmgunzen@pitt.edumgunzen
Committee MemberJohnson, Susan
Date: 24 September 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 26 July 2018
Approval Date: 24 September 2018
Submission Date: 28 August 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 147
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Foster Care Youth Postsecondary Education Perceptions Emancipated Foster Care Youth Aging Out Emerging Adulthood
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2018 20:33
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2018 20:33


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