It’s good to know that you got somebody that’s not going anywhere: Attitudes and beliefs of older youth in foster care about child welfare-based natural mentoring

This exploratory study is the first to investigate the attitudes and beliefs of older adolescents in foster care toward the implementation of a child welfare-based natural mentoring intervention designed to promote enduring, growth-fostering relationships between youth at risk of emancipation and caring, supportive nonparental adults from within the youth’s existing social network. Six focus groups were conducted with 17 older youth in foster care attending a specialized charter high school for young people in out-of-home care in a large, urban city in the Northeast United States. Focus group data were transcribed and analyzed using a conventional content analysis approach. The following significant themes emerged related to natural mentoring for older foster youth emancipating from care: (1) need for permanent relationships with caring adults, (2) youth conceptions of natural mentoring, (3) unique challenges related to natural mentoring for youth in foster care, (4) role of a natural mentoring intervention in child welfare, and (5) challenges for implementing a child welfare-based natural mentoring intervention. Overall, our findings suggest that these young people are cautiously optimistic about the potential of a child welfare-based natural mentoring intervention to promote their social and emotional wellbeing. Future studies are needed to better understand the experiences of older foster youth with an actual natural mentoring intervention, including challenges, opportunities, and outcomes.

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