Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Chang, Janet


This research examined the perceptions of child welfare social workers in their role of supporting foster youth. Specifically, this study will focus on factors contributing to support for foster youth to obtain post-secondary education or vocational training.

This study utilized a qualitative research design. Data were collected from individual, semi-structured interviews with six volunteer participants in Southern and Northern California using a snowball sampling method. Throughout the interviews, the researcher asked current or former child welfare social workers to describe their perceptions and experiences in supporting foster youth in obtaining higher education.

The study found several themes related to the presenting problem. One of the themes found that social workers were restricted from spending extra time with individuals on their cases due to high caseloads. Another theme that was discovered was the discrepancy between knowledge of programs that support foster youth and the actual utilization of these programs. A third theme that emerged from the data was the realization that foster youth were often times focusing on short-term goals as opposed to long-term achievements.

One recommendation for social work practice is to train social workers to emphasize the importance of higher education when working with youth in the foster care system. Training coupled with accountability of this action would place an increased importance for social workers to touch upon with the foster youth they come across. Another implication is the amount of time social workers realistically have with each of their clients. To mitigate this, it is recommended that social workers be assigned a more manageable caseload. The significance of this study is to aid and improve the current practice of social work.