Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Shon, Herbert


Former foster youth face many challenges in obtaining higher education. This research project gathered data through face to face, qualitative interviews with seven former foster youth and two former child welfare workers. The purpose of this study was to identify various contributing factors that the participants identified as positive or negative reasons for obtaining higher education.

This study utilized an interview questionnaire, using open ended questions to gather personal insight and develop a better understanding from the perspectives of the nine participants. Each former foster youth shared their own personal experiences of being in the foster care system. Both former child welfare workers provided personal data, expressing some of the contributing factors leading to former foster youth success in obtaining higher education.

For this study, the researchers utilized 3rd party transcription services to transcribe each individual interview. The researchers coded the data independently and compiled the results of the interviews to identify the various themes that emerged in each interview. The themes that emerged in our data representing positive factors for obtaining higher education consisted of having a mentor or good support network, self-determination, funding, and being informed about the various steps that go into applying, getting into, and succeeding in college. The negative themes that were identified as a contributing factor for not obtaining higher education consisted of multiple placement changes, financial struggles, lack of support, lack of knowledge about college, and lack of confidence in future success.

This study found that former foster youth experienced challenges and difficulties in obtaining higher education. The former child welfare social workers identified strategies in obtaining higher education such as stable schools, a strong support network, positive mentorship, recruitment, and self-determination. Through understanding the factors that play a role in helping or hindering former foster youth in obtaining higher education, we can help contribute to bringing awareness to the issue of better serving foster youth.

Included in

Social Work Commons