Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Thomas McLaughlin


This qualitative research study explored service barriers social workers encountered while working with their foster clients aging out of placement in the Virgin Islands. This study provided an understanding of the problem and seminal literature that warrants further study in the future. The foundation for this study was grounded in ecological systems theory. Data collection consisted of narrative interviews with social workers from a single government agency. Six social workers from the islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands discussed the challenges they encountered while working with their foster clients aging out of placement. Key findings from the study and the main themes included (a) lack of family support/community involvement, (b) lack of housing, (c) adolescents’ lack of intellectual capacity/independent living skills, (d) lack of training/employment opportunities for adolescents, (e) services not suited for adolescents, and (f) uncooperative and combative clients. The findings from this study may inform social work practice and policy for the single government agency. The findings may also influence interventions and positive social change by resulting in a reduction in the number of adolescents aging-out of the foster care system without supportive resources.

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