Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Lanesskog, Deirdre


This study examines the factors that influence foster youth high school graduation rates. Over 50% of foster youth do not graduate high school and even fewer enroll in higher education. The study analyzes social workers’ belief about foster youth high school graduation. Social workers have direct contact with and influence on foster youth, so understanding the extent to which there, beliefs and actions factor into foster youth graduation rates seems important.

This study utilized a quantitative, online survey designed by the researcher to collect exploratory data. The researcher posted invitations to participate in the study on social media sites used by social workers. All participants worked with foster youth ages 16-21 years old. This study was conducted over a three month time period and a total of 56 participants completed the survey via Qualtrics online survey software.

This study hypothesized a positive correlation between social worker belief and values around education and the volume of educational services social workers offered to foster youth. The survey data were analyzed using the SPSS statistical package for the social sciences. The researcher reported frequencies of participants responses to survey questions and assessed correlations between the independent variable, social worker beliefs around education, and the dependent variable, provision of education supports to foster youth. The results of the correlation analysis did not support the hypothesis. There did not appear to be a correlation on what a social worker offered and if their youth graduated high school and enrolled into higher education. There were limitations to this study. The participants self-reported and the sample size was small. The sample was also narrow in that the social worker participants only served youth ages 16-21 years old.

The results of this study suggest that other factors, besides social workers’ beliefs and values around education may impact foster youth graduation. The survey also noted that social workers do not always have the ability to prioritize education over other services. More research will also need to be conducted on what direct services the schools are providing for foster youth.

Additional Files

E Thomas MSW Research FINAL DL comments (1).docx (463 kB)
Updated paper