Thesis

Fostering the system: a study on the benefits of former foster youth attending college and the barriers keeping them out

The review of the literature is broken down to three subtopics. First, understanding how the foster care system works to the benefit of foster youth; fully understanding the barriers they face and resources available to them is important information guiding the expansion and improvement of programs specifically supporting the special needs of emancipated foster youth. The second subtopic is a discussion about what support services are available for transitional foster youth. The last subtopic focuses on recognizing the factors that move a foster youth toward and through college. Several resources focused on the general public’s view of foster youth and higher education are identified and summarized regarding their roles in supporting the goal of understanding the reason(s) influencing a former foster youth to enter and stay in college. The purpose of this research was to answer the following question: How well do foster youth, and individuals working alongside them, know about the benefits received from higher education enrollment? In this study, the limitations, as well as the benefits, are explored to get a better understanding of how and why college is not a higher priority for foster youth. The researcher gathered qualitative data to gain more insight on foster youth going into higher education. Human subjects were accessed through the Guardian Scholars program at a public university, in the northern region of California. Established in 2006, the program currently serves 65 active, former foster youth students and provides job assistance, resume-building, and partnerships through the two large public school districts in northern California. The researcher was assisted by the college advisor of the Guardian Scholars in administering a Survey Monkey© survey to all students, professionals, and volunteers involved in the program. The survey was sent to 119 potential respondents listed on the college advisors email contact list; 42 completed the survey. It consisted of 21 questions; 17 multiple choice and four short answer. One-on-one interviews were conducted with two of the Guardian Scholars. They both took place on the public university campus. Foster youth face more adversity than their peers. Without continuing support from the community and stable, committed relationships with adults, children are not able to reach their full potential and, in fact, experience quite negative outcomes. Students who attend institutions of higher education obtain a wide range of personal, financial, and other lifelong benefits; likewise, taxpayers, and society as a whole, derive a multitude of direct and indirect benefits when citizens have access to post secondary education. Education has many benefits; individuals with higher levels of education earn more and are more likely than others to be employed and productive members of society.

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