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Child Youth Serv Rev. 2011 Jun 1;33(6):1012-1023.

Qualitative exporation of relationships with important non-parental adults in the lives of youth in foster care.

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Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL.


Foster youth are at risk of poor adult outcomes. Research on the role of mentoring relationships for this population suggests the value of strategies that increase their access to adult sources of support, both while in foster care and as they reach adulthood. We conducted semi-structured, individual qualitative interviews with 23 former foster youth ages 18-25 regarding their relationships with supportive non-parental adults. We sought to identify factors that influence the formation, quality, and duration of these relationships and to develop testable hypotheses for intervention strategies. Findings suggest several themes related to relationship formation with non-parental adults, including barriers (e.g., youth's fears of being hurt) and facilitators (e.g., patience from the adult). Distinct themes were also identified relating to the ongoing development and longevity of these relationships. Youth also described multiple types of support and positive contributions to their development. Proposed intervention strategies include systematic incorporation of important non-parental adults into transition planning, enhanced training and matching procedures within formal mentoring programs, assistance for youth to strengthen their interpersonal awareness and skills, and the targeting of specific periods of need when linking youth to sources of adult support. Recommended research includes the development, pilot-testing, and evaluation of proposed strategies.

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