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Public Policy and Administration


Anne J. Hacker


AbstractApproximately 440,000 children lived in state-supervised foster care across the United States in 2019; of those children, 48% were female. Many studies have examined how foster care impacts youth who age out of care, as many are ill-prepared to navigate the challenges of independence and make responsible adult decisions after transitioning. However, only a handful of studies prioritized the female youth's voice to understand their experiences growing up in the foster care system. This study introduced photovoice, a participatory methodology, to collect data from 11 former female youth 19-25 years old. Manchanda's upstream concept and Rappaport's empowerment theory were used to develop the conceptual framework. Data were gathered through images and words produced by the participants using the photovoice method. The findings generated 5 themes constructed from the data. A thematic analysis was used to explore and evaluate the collected data to identify themes and patterns. Results showed each participant's struggles and underlying behavioral transformations. The findings also provided the knowledge that supportive relationships helped make the transition easier for some participants. The results can inform foster care specialists, policymakers, practitioners, and other relevant officials working with the Child Welfare System to highlight potential policy weaknesses to improve their outcomes. Implications of this study include using the voice of youth and their experiences to promote positive change.