Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Chang, Janet.


This study explored the perceptions of former foster youth as a means to analyze the factors that contribute to the positive and negative outcomes of foster youth once aging out of the foster care system. Ten former foster youth were identified for the purposes of understanding how prepared foster youth feel towards aging out and transitioning into adulthood. The study utilized qualitative interviewing for data collection in efforts to gather the information about the experiences of each foster youth. Participants were recruited through San Bernardino County Children and Family Services Extended Foster Care (EFC) unit, as well as the local college- California State University, San Bernardino. Interviews were held for twenty to forty five minutes. Ten participants of various diverse backgrounds provided information about their perceptions and experiences within the foster care system and what factors contributed to how prepared they felt towards exiting the foster care system.

All participants were either former or current foster youth between the ages of eighteen years old and thirty-three years old. The sample was comprised of six females, and four males. On average, participants spent 8.87 years in foster care. The total number of placements ranged from one to ten placements. The average number of placements was 4.13. With more foster youth aging out of the system rather than ever reunifying with biological families or gaining permanent placements, researchers explored what factors could enhance the future of foster youth who are increasingly aging out of the foster care system. These four factors were examined for the purpose of exploring the experiences of foster youth’s in regards to: access to effective mental health treatment, educational attainment, independent living programs, and social support from a variety of entities. Researchers presumed that access to these four factors might contribute to the outcome rates of foster youth who have recently and previously aged out of the foster care system. Throughout the interviews questions surrounding these four factors were discussed to examine the perceptions of each of former foster youth.

This study’s findings revealed social support as the most influential factor that contributed to how prepared former foster youth felt towards aging out of the foster care system. Although all of the participants identified support amongst their friends throughout their experiences, participants identified social support from caregivers and social workers as the most needed during their experiences within the child welfare system. Most of the participants identified mental health treatment as the least helpful factor during their experience within the foster care system. Many of the participants expressed feeling uncomfortable receiving therapy from professionals they considered strangers, and preferred for support in the form of social workers, caregivers, friends, and individuals who could identify with their experiences. This study’s findings are important to understanding what factors contribute to how prepared foster youth are once aging out of the foster care system. If professionals can identify the factors that contribute to the outcomes rates of foster youth, professionals can then hopefully increase their level of competency to help these foster youth navigate through the foster care system and age out successfully.