Date of Award
D.S.W. Social work
Stephen W. Stoeffler
Social work professionals and policymakers are faced with the dilemma of older youth exiting foster care each year with poor outcomes, lacking resources and supports that make successful transitions a challenge. Research suggests that youth who have a supportive relationship with a consistent and trusted adult to help navigate the transition to adulthood supports a youth’s successful transition from care. The Federal John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood, initially birthed from the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 and revised through the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018, provides states with funding and guidance for programs for older youth in foster care. These programs provide this population with assistance with education, employment, financial literacy, housing, emotional support, access to medical care, and connections to caring adults. This study examined the congruence of policies and practice guidelines in Philadelphia County in the state of Pennsylvania to the Chafee Foster Care Program, with a focus on developing connections to caring adults as part of their transition plan from care.
This study utilized conceptual content analysis to examine 46 county-level child welfare policies that guide the implementation of the Federal Chafee Program and the work with older youth in foster care. The sample was drawn from policy documents from Philadelphia County developed since 1999, as this aligns with the inception of the Chafee Foster Care Program. The data was collected and analyzed using NVivo software, specifically looking at content on connections to caring adults, education, emotional support, employment, financial management, housing, independence, and medical care and access. The findings of this study showed that more than half of the policy documents received from Philadelphia County contained language and content about one or more of these areas. The most frequently occurring content area involved a focus on independence, with content involving connections to caring adults following closely behind. The themes that emerged from this study encompassed independence, interdependence, and transition planning for older youth preparing to exit foster care. Overall, the policies governing the work with older youth in foster care in Philadelphia County align with the priorities of the Federal Chafee Program and promotes opportunities for older youth in foster care to develop relational connections to caring adults. However, findings showed that there were some significant delays in the inclusion of language providing guidance around supporting the development of relational connections to caring adults in the county-level policies.
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Miller, Heather, "Relational Connections for Youth Aging out of Foster Care: A Policy Content Analysis" (2023). Social Work Doctoral Dissertations. 29.