Child Welfare Professionals’ Attitudes and Beliefs About Child Welfare-Based Natural Mentoring for Older Youth in Foster Care

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Journal: Journal of Social Service Research

This qualitative study is the first to explore child welfare professionals’ attitudes and beliefs about implementing natural mentoring as a promising way to smooth the road to independence for older foster youth. The term “natural mentor” refers to a nonparental, caring adult whom a youth identifies in his/her existing social network (e.g., teachers, coaches, adult relatives). Five focus groups were conducted with 20 child welfare professionals from a Department of Human Services (DHS) located in a large urban city in the Northeastern United States. This study used the exploration, preparation, implementation, and sustainment (EPIS) framework to explicate the organizational challenges and opportunities related to the implementation of a child welfare-based natural mentoring intervention. The following significant themes emerged related to natural mentoring for older foster youth emancipating from care: a) the strengths and gaps of DHS service, b) the importance of youth perspective, c) the appropriate vetting of supportive adults as natural mentors, d) the benefits of natural mentoring, and e) the relevance of DHS’s climate and culture for implementation. Future studies are needed to build upon these initial findings to better understand the organizational contexts in which natural mentoring can be implemented for older foster youth preparing for emancipation.

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