Title

Bridging the Gap Between Students in Foster Care and Academic Success Through Mentorship

First Presenter's Institution

Mercer University Atlanta

Second Presenter's Institution

NA

Third Presenter's Institution

NA

Fourth Presenter's Institution

NA

Fifth Presenter's Institution

NA

Location

Poster Session (Harborside)

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Family & Community

Relevance

This proposal relates to the “HEAD” and the “HOME” strands of the conference standards in that it facilitates a discussion between professionals in the field on specific actions that can assist students in foster care in achieving academic success and creating post-secondary plans. Through this effort, students in foster care will gain new perspective upon receiving the unfamiliar and unconditional support of an experienced, available, and dedicated member of the community.

Brief Program Description

Youth in foster care are subject to unique challenges that affect their ability to experience healthy relationships with adults which hinders their academic success and motivation to succeed. Experimental research in this area is scarce, however, a theme emerges throughout the literature giving hope for academic success through mentorship. Proposal details will be discussed.

Summary

There are over 430,000 youth in foster care in the United States, with most entering the system due to parental/caretaker neglect or parental/caretaker drug abuse. These circumstances result in a lack of experience cultivating healthy relationships with adults, which negatively impacts all aspects of life for those youth, especially education. This lack of support from positive adult role models hinders their academic success and motivation to succeed. With the graduation rate being well below that of their non-foster peers, students in foster care are often subject to homelessness, poverty, and incarceration after emancipation. Research brings to light a need and desire for more traditional forms of mentorship that focus on academic achievement within the foster care community.

Youth in foster care benefit from having an adult mentor present in their life, therefore, it is hypothesized that they experience additional motivation to graduate high school when they meet with an adult mentor on a weekly basis for at least one school year. Providing students in foster care with a supportive and dedicated mentor in or before their freshman year of high school will increase their likelihood of graduating on time and moving toward established post-secondary plans. This poster presentation will allow participants to identify the need for this method of intervention, review the evidence behind it, and understand potential outcomes of mentorship on students in foster care.

As the number of youth entering the foster care system increases, the graduation rate for this population continues to decrease. Researchers have only skimmed the surface when it comes to understanding how to better assist this population in navigating through unique challenges to achieve academic success. The lack of research on implementing programs that positively impact the academic achievement of youth in foster care leaves room for exploration in this area. A common desire for educational mentorship gives researchers hope for a method of intervention that can be utilized in schools. The current proposal aims to provide more information in this area, seeking to determine how, exactly, educational motivation for youth in foster care is affected by mentorship.

Evidence

At a time when support, care, and encouragement are of the utmost importance for developing self-confidence and motivation to succeed academically, youth in foster care are met with abandonment, neglect, and abuse. These experiences contribute to a negative self-image and belief structure that affects their academic development. Results from a phenomenologically designed qualitative study captured the subjective experiences of youth in foster care as they relate to educational attainment. In the study, participants expressed the impact of internalized messages from surrounding adults regarding education (Clemens, Helm, Myers, Thomas, & Matt, 2017). Participants expressed that receiving negative comments from adults such as the inability to go to a good college and being worthless contribute to a negative educational self-belief structure (Clemens et al., 2017). This negative self-belief structure deters youth ins foster care from believing that they can achieve academic success.

One of the most powerful ways to combat said negative self-beliefs and achieve academic success is having an adult mentor present in their life (Rutman & Hubberstey, 2016; Clemens et al., 2017). In their study on educational motivations for youth in foster care, Rutman and Hubberstey (2016) found that half of the participants already had an informal support system, and a quarter of participants had either no support or some support from a former caseworker or neighbor. Although most of the participants had an informal support system in place, the majority disclosed that they did not receive the kind of educational support they desired (Rutman & Hubberstey, 2016). In an effort to determine motivational factors that lead to achieving post-secondary success, various studies have examined the perspectives of former foster youth who are currently enrolled in universities. Having a network of caring adults is a common theme throughout the studies. In one mixed-method study conducted on former foster youth currently attending a highly prestigious university, Neal (2016) found that their adult supporters provided a sense of security and care while also having high expectations of them (p. 246). Another mixed method study had similar results regarding the power of adult supports for youth in foster care. Former foster youth who were currently enrolled in college indicated that the most powerful influence in their academic success were the positive relationships that they had with adults (Strolin-Goltzman, Woodhouse, Suter, & Werrbach, 2016). Participants expressed that their adult’s mentors held them accountable and assisted them in prioritizing education above all else (Strolin-Goltzman et al., 2016).

The literature reveals only one true experimental study conducted on the impact of traditional mentoring on foster youth. In that study, Johnson, Pryce, and Martinovich (2011) found that participants who received a substantial amount of mentoring for at least one year exhibited a decrease in symptoms of trauma and an increase in school achievement (p. 58). The study also found that participants who received a limited amount of mentoring for one year showed little to no improvement overall, and even fared worse than participants who did not receive mentoring (Johnson, Pryce, and Martinovich, 2011). This study provides a starting point for specifying the correlation between traditional mentoring of students in foster care and academic outcomes. These are but a few of the many research studies conducted confirming the need for mentorship on youth in foster care. Various other studies describe characteristics and qualities that youth in foster care desire from potential mentors and will be included in the presentation. Research is saturated with information describing the need for academic mentorship for youth in foster care, however, very few studies have discussed the implementation of such a method and the outcome. It is important to remain aware of the educational gap affecting this population and informed of potential methods of assisting youth in foster care in achieving academic goals that result in graduating high school and moving toward established post-secondary plans.

References

Clemens, E. V., Helm, H. M., Myers, K., Thomas, C., & Tis, M. (2017). The voices of youth formerly in foster care: Perspectives on educational attainment gaps. Children and Youth Services Review, 79, 65-77. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.06.003

Johnson, S. B., Pryce, J. M., Martinovich, Z. (2011). The role of therapeutic mentoring in enhancing outcomes for youth in foster care. Child Welfare, 90(5), 51-69. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy- s.mercer.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=8&sid=4bef4210-64bf-461b-bda2-a8102cadd6c4%40pdc-v-sessmgr01

Neal, D. (2017). Academic resilience and caring adults: The experiences of former foster youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 79, 242-248. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.06.005

Rutman, D., Hubberstey, C. (2016). Is anybody there? Informal supports accessed and sought by youth from foster care. Children and Youth services Review, 63, 21-27. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.02.007

Strolin-Goltzman, J., Woodhouse, V., Suter, J., & Werrbach, M. (2016). A mixed method study on educational well-being and resilience among youth in foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 70, 30-36. Doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.08.014

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

I received my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of West Georgia and am currently a second-year Master of Science in School Counseling graduate candidate at Mercer University Atlanta.

Keyword Descriptors

academic, mentor, success, relationships, graduation

Presentation Year

2019

Start Date

3-5-2019 4:00 PM

End Date

3-5-2019 5:30 PM

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Mar 5th, 4:00 PM Mar 5th, 5:30 PM

Bridging the Gap Between Students in Foster Care and Academic Success Through Mentorship

Poster Session (Harborside)

Youth in foster care are subject to unique challenges that affect their ability to experience healthy relationships with adults which hinders their academic success and motivation to succeed. Experimental research in this area is scarce, however, a theme emerges throughout the literature giving hope for academic success through mentorship. Proposal details will be discussed.