Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Deirdre Lanesskog


Former foster youth who become child welfare workers are an asset to the child welfare system because of the combination of their lived experience and professional experience in child welfare, which allows them to understand the circumstances of their clients on a deeper level. This study seeks to uncover the reasons why former foster youth become child welfare workers. There are three main questions that our study seeks to know: What factors lead former foster youth to become workers in child welfare? Do these workers have any advantages because of their past personal experiences with child welfare? And do child welfare workers who were former foster youth consider themselves resilient? In answering these questions, child welfare agencies can understand how former foster youth have transformed themselves to help others in the child welfare system and can learn how former foster youth uniquely contribute to the child welfare system.

Little research attempts to understand the experiences of child welfare workers who were once in foster care. The intent of this study is to identify the factors that lead former foster youth to become child welfare workers. Additionally, this study seeks to uncover any potential advantages they possess because of their shared experiences. Lastly, the study examines the role resiliency has played in helping former foster youth attain a career in child welfare despite being a former dependent of the child welfare system.

This study used a qualitative research design, conducting individual, in-depth interviews with 12 participants who were former foster youth that worked in child welfare. Thematic analysis revealed seven major themes including: Resiliency; Passion for the Profession; Improving the System; Wanting to Do More; Understanding, Relatability, and Engagement; Benefit of Services; and Trauma and Mental Health.

The implications of this study can lead to contributions in social work practice and policy that provide ways to increase engagement, retention, and career satisfaction of former foster youth who work in child welfare. Further research should be conducted to add to our findings. The significance of this study is to aid and improve the current practice of social work.

Included in

Social Work Commons