Rose's Thorn: Navigating Career and College Readiness Self-Efficacy While Aging-Out of the Foster Care System

Rose's Thorn: Navigating Career and College Readiness Self-Efficacy While Aging-Out of the Foster Care System

Regina Gavin Williams (North Carolina Central University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0022-4.ch005
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This case study examines the life of Rose, a 17-year-old junior attending a public high school in a southeastern city. In the state where Rose resides, the year of “aging-out” of the foster care system is 18-years-old. With the age of 18 being such a pivotal year, Rose must not only think about her potential post-secondary options, but her ability to achieve adult self-sufficiency at such a young age as well. With no supports, this proves to be a daunting task for Rose. It becomes Rose's thorn. This chapter will explore the career and college readiness self-efficacy of Rose as she navigates her post-secondary options, builds her support networks, and discovers resources for adolescents aging out of the foster care system via her work with Dr. Williams, creator and counselor of the Students That Are Reaching Success (S.T.A.R.S.) program. Results from Rose's participation in the program will be shared and implications for counselors working with adolescents aging out of the foster care system will be reviewed.
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Navigating post-secondary options and preparing for adult self-sufficiency prior to high school completion is a significant barrier for adolescents aging out of the foster care system. Kirk, Lewis, Nilsen, and Colvin (2013) reported that approximately 10% of adolescents who were formerly in foster care enrolled in college. Day, Dworsky, and Weng (2013) stated that although they finish high school, youth in foster care may not be fully prepared for the academic rigors of post-secondary education. Out of the 10% of former foster care youth enrolled in college, only 4% obtained a bachelor’s degree (Kirk, Lewis, Nilsen, & Colvin, 2013). High school completion for adolescents in foster care is also accompanied by a higher susceptibility for them to be suspended or expelled, repeat a grade, or even drop out of high school (Unrau, Font, & Rawls, 2012). They are also reported to be less likely to enroll in college preparatory courses compared to their peers (Day, Dworsky, & Weng, 2013).

Despite these educational barriers, Courtney, Terao, and Bost (2004) reported that more than 70% of foster care youth aspire to pursue a post-secondary education. They instead find themselves susceptible to hindrances such as mental health concerns, homelessness, and unemployment (Kirk et al., 2013). Youth in the foster care system have been removed from their families by the court system. They may be placed with relatives, in foster homes, or in group homes (Kirk et al., 2013). Longer-term placement options include being adopted or allowing them to age out of the foster care system and instead live independently. The common age for aging out of the foster care system in most states is 18-years-old. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2016), of the near 438,000 youth in foster care, over 20,000 of these youth age out of welfare services between the ages of 18-20 annually. They are then expected to transition from foster care and directly into adulthood without any supports such as being legally reunified with their biological family members, being placed under permanent guardianship, or without being adopted (Blakeslee & Best, 2018).

According to the National Foster Youth Institute (2017) approximately 20% of youth who were in foster care will become homeless after turning 18-years-old. Adolescents aging out of the foster care system may also lose many of support networks that facilitated their transition to independent living (Hudson, 2013). This presents a detrimental impact on the career and college readiness preparation needed for their successful transition from the foster care system to post-secondary education opportunities (Gavin Williams, Baker, Williams-DeVane, 2018). Conley (2010) described “career ready” as having the content knowledge and key learning techniques and skills to begin studies in a career pathway. Achieve, Inc. (n.d.) describe “college ready” as being prepared for post-secondary education training experiences that lead to gaining education credentials such an associate or bachelor’s degree, certificate, or license.

Piel (2018) indicated that school personnel may not have identified students in their school who are in foster care and the educational implications of being in the foster care system entail. Nonetheless, Finkelstein, Wamsley, and Miranda (2002) reported that school personnel may provide the strongest connection between foster youth and their formal education. In this regard, school counselors, in collaboration with other adults in their support networks (e.g. social worker, therapist, guardian et litem), could be essential in improving the educational outcomes of foster care youth. Williams et al. (2018) indicated that by understanding the unique circumstances foster care youth encounter and by having the desire to enhance their career and college readiness, one may help to improve the potential for foster care youth gaining access to post-secondary education opportunities. Counselors are knowledgeable and professionally equipped adults who can both recognize these circumstances and help to improve the career and college readiness of foster care adolescents. Furthermore, addressing the complex identities and lived experiences of youth aging out of the foster care system from a cross-cultural counseling stance can be helpful to counselors who are assisting these youth with their transition towards adult self-sufficiency.

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