National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime: Relational Permanence Among Young Adults with Foster Care Backgrounds

Samuels, G.
Paper/Research Report
Year Published: 2008
Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago
Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago

The author of this 96-page report conducted in-depth interviews and utilized personal network maps to gain a better understanding of the social support networks among participants in Opportunity Passport. Opportunity Passport is a program within the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, and provides a package of resources to help young people make successful transitions from foster care to adulthood, through age 24. Financial literacy is a core element and financial management a key skill taught to participants. There are Opportunity Passport grantees throughout the country; the author used four of these sites - one each from the West Coast, East Coast, South, and Midwest) to recruit 29 youth and young adults for her study. Analysis of the interviews and network maps produced the following key findings: (1) all participants have an existing support network of friends and family (biological/adoptive/foster); (2) normative supportive relationships with adults include supports from child welfare professionals; (3) emotional support was the most frequently noted support as being both needed and missing by youth and young adults in foster care; (4) inner-circle members also included persons with dual roles and/or individuals who provide multiple supports; and (5) ambiguous loss was present throughout the stories of participants as they explained how they learned to cope with people coming in and out of their lives. The author details three recommendations based on these findings, addressing the issues of emotional support, the development of relational skills, and utilizing a family-centered approach that recognizes multiple family relationships. The report includes references.

Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, 1313 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637; Telephone: 773-753-5900, Fax: 773-753-5940, Website: or for download
Publication available on the Internet free of charge.
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