Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Dr. Ross Alexander


Homelessness with youth aging out the child welfare system has proportionally risen over the years. It is important that policy makers, professionals, and practitioners in the field of foster care understand the conditions youth find themselves in at the time of leaving placement. The purpose of this study was to describe problems that exist for youth aging out of foster care. Post placement outcomes have not generated results that suggest youth are thriving as they return to communities. Attachment Theory outlines relational bonds that form with caregivers when youth are entering and exiting placements. This qualitative study collected data from 11 professionals recruited from 2 organizations in the foster care system. In depth interviews provided a pathway for framing their perspec-tives on barriers and structural deficits that exist with youth aging out of the foster care system. Data analysis procedures identified common patterns and themes and ranked them accordingly. Unpreparedness, program deficits, and lack of long term supportive systems were key factors discussed in the systems that govern youth prior to emancipa-tion. Supportive services, including (a) housing, (b) education, (c) mental health, (d) af-tercare plans, and (e) interdisciplinary approach had significant implications in mediating many of the concerns for youth aging out of the foster care experience. Many challenges still exist for youth aging out of the Child Welfare system that are not easily detected from external sources. Foster care and Child Welfare systems have the potential to im-prove strategies through policy and programmatic changes that address poor post-placement outcomes. This research identified conditions with a call to action to improve planning for youth aging out of placement and integrating back to society.