Date of Conferral





Human Services


Randy Heinrich


Youth emancipating from foster care are at increased risk of housing instability and homelessness and have reduced access to needed social supports to aid in the difficult transition to independent living. The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to understand the lived formal social support experiences of stably housed emancipated foster youth. Purposive sampling techniques and inclusion criteria guided the recruitment of nine study participants from a state-administered postemancipation services program to take part in semistructured interviews. A conceptual framework, including social convoy and attachment theories, informed inquiry, and interpretation of findings. Participant lived experiences illuminated the importance of program and case manager social support in maintaining housing. The social support roles of mentor, parental figure, and role model also emerged as significant among case manager social support experiences and how emancipated foster youth perceive the supporter. Case manager characteristics and values emerged as contributors to how participants perceived the quality of the case manager support. Finally, participant experiences of formal social support emerged as contributing to housing stability and maintaining housing contributed to a sense of accomplishment and general stability. Findings from this study suggest postemancipation services programming addressing housing stability and formal social support during the transition from foster care to independent living could improve outcomes and have direct implications for child welfare and postemancipation service providers.