Date of Paper

5-2013

Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Richa Dhanju

Abstract

Past research has revealed that emancipated foster care youth are struggling as they leave care and enter into adulthood. Among other issues, this population is impacted by high rates of mental illness, substance abuse, pregnancy, and domestic violence. On top of these struggles they are also under-supported in their transition to adulthood and lack meaningful connections to the adult world and their communities. This research focuses on the romantic relationships of emancipated foster care youth as they attempt to make this difficult transition. The research question asks: what is the observed experience of emancipated foster care youth with romantic relationships as they enter into adulthood? Due to a lack of past research on the topic, exploratory qualitative research methods were chosen to answer the question posed for this study. Ten social workers who worked closely with emancipated foster care youth took part in an individual semi-structured interview process. Thematic Clustering was used in analysis of the interviews and revealed four major themes. These themes included: belonging, stability, and security; early pregnancy and domestic violence; influence of the past on current relationships; and life goals versus romantic relationships. The research also found that social workers believed emancipated foster care youth, compared to their peers, were less likely to view romantic relationships positively, more likely to be in a romantic relationship and to cohabitate with their partner, and equally likely to marry by the age of 21. Research also revealed that while there is support available for youth in the area of romantic relationships, knowledge of the availability of these resources was not equal among the social workers that were interviewed and in-depth assistance and support was limited.

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