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In This Report, You’ll Learn
The relational networks of foster care alumni.
Whether or not these networks provide lifelong support.
The meaning of ambiguous loss.
What missing relationships these young adults desire most.
This study explores the stories and support systems of 29 individuals who recently exited foster care. Readers will learn how these participants feel about family, what their adult relationships look like and what supports they want, and need, as they navigate life after foster care.
Table of Contents
For foster care youth, the foundation of a typical American childhood — a stable, nuclear family — is missing
Few foster care alumni described family settings that offered unquestionable permanence, belonging and a mutually deep connection. Their feedback is painfully clear: They did not have, and still deeply need, emotional support and a strong personal connection.
Findings & Stats
Foster care alumni participated in interviews and filled in a personal network map, which documented the adults who were important in their lives.
All 29 participants had an existing support network, typically composed of adult family members and friends who had known them for at least two years.
Inner Circle Composition
Each former foster care youth named people in their inner circle who they could not imagine life without: 59% non-kin adults, 25% kin adults and 16% professionals.
The foster care alumni counted child welfare professionals as members of their supportive circles — but most didn’t see them as permanent.
A Common Thread
A sense of ambiguous loss weaved its way through the stories of participants as they described coping with people coming into and out of their lives.
Statements & Quotations
These young adults have not outgrown their need for a sense of family. Few people do.
Increasingly, research suggests that having a permanent supportive relationship with, and feeling connected to, an adult matters in the long- and short-term wellbeing of youth and young adults.
In thinking about relational permanence, the role of biological family must be extended beyond that family’s official or legal status in a child’s permanency plan.
The stories these young people shared about being in foster care are reminders that every placement into a foster home is intimately linked with the removal from a home.
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