First Advisor

Thomas Keller

Date of Publication

Summer 8-14-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work




Foster children -- Deinstitutionalization, Foster children -- Services for, Life skills, Foster children -- Attitudes, Youth with disabilities -- Services for, Youth with disabilities -- Attitudes



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 172 pages)


Nearly 23,000 youth age out of the foster care system between the ages of 18 and 21 each year in a transition fraught with challenges and barriers. These young people often lack developmentally appropriate experiences and exposure to necessary knowledge, role modeling, skill building, and long-term social support to promote positive transitions to adulthood while in foster care. As a result, young people who exit care face an array of poor adult outcomes. Nearly 60% of transition-aged foster youth experience a disability, and as such, face compounded challenges exiting foster care. While the examination of young adult outcomes for youth with disabilities has been largely missing from the literature, available research documents that young adults with disabilities who had exited foster care were significantly behind their peers without disabilities in several key areas. Literature examining the experiences of transition-aged youth with disabilities in the general population also highlights gaps in young adult outcomes for young people with disabilities compared to their peers. Compounding the issue for youth in foster care, those who experience disabilities often reside in restrictive placement settings such as developmental disability (DD) certified homes, group homes, or residential treatment centers. Though limited, there is some evidence to suggest that these types of placements negatively impact young adult outcomes for those aging out of foster care. The rules and regulations in place to promote safety in these types of placements could further restrict youth from engaging in meaningful transition preparation engagement while in foster care. Therefore, youth with disabilities, whose needs necessitate a higher level of support towards transition preparation engagement, may actually receive fewer opportunities than their peers in non-relative foster care and kinship care as they prepare to exit care into adulthood. The work in this dissertation provides knowledge to address gaps in the literature around transition preparation engagement during foster care for youth with disabilities, youth residing in restrictive foster care placements, and youth who report high levels of perceived restrictiveness as they prepare to enter into adulthood.

This dissertation is a secondary analysis of transition preparation engagement data collected at baseline for 294 transition-aged youth in foster care who participated in an evaluation of an intervention to promote self-determination and enhance young adult outcomes, called My Life. Transition preparation engagement in this study was represented by eight domains: youth perceptions of preparedness for adult life, post-secondary education preparation engagement, career preparation engagement, employment, daily life preparation engagement, Independent Living Program (ILP) participation, transition planning engagement, and self-determination. Transition preparation engagement domains were examined using hierarchical multiple regression analysis to explore differences by disability status, placement setting, and youth self-report of perceptions of restrictiveness. In alignment with the literature, 58.8% of youth in this sample experienced a disability. Additional key demographics, including age, gender, and race, and foster care experiences, including length of time in care and placement instability, were entered into the regression models as covariates. Results indicated significantly less transition preparation engagement for 1) youth with disabilities compared to youth without disabilities, 2) youth residing in restrictive placements compared to youth in non-relative foster care and kinship care, and 3) youth who reported higher levels of perceived restrictiveness compared to youth who reported lower levels of perceived restrictiveness. Program, policy, and research recommendations are discussed that highlight the need to promote transition preparation engagement for this particularly vulnerable group of young people in foster care who experience disabilities, are residing in restrictive placement settings and who report high levels of perceived restrictiveness.


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