First Advisor

Thomas Keller

Term of Graduation

Winter 2024

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

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


Social Work




African American, Black Girls, Child Welfare, Female adolescents, Foster Care, Racial Isolation



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 139 pages)


As the author Zora Neale Hurston says, "If you're silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it." The Mirror Project (MP) aims to break this silence by giving voice to Black women who have experienced foster care in Portland, Oregon during their adolescence. In focus groups and interviews, participants shared their stories. Racial identity development theory, phenomenology and Afrocentric feminist epistemology provided lenses for gaining insight into their experiences in a predominantly white city. The MP revealed six themes: lack of youth engagement in foster care decisions, the need for a cultural lens in social work, foster home abuse, the impact of placement decisions, the youth's locus of control, and healing and resilience. These insights from the participants can inform advocacy efforts and culturally relevant social work practices. The MP experience was cathartic and culturally affirming; also healing by the power of sharing one's truth. Amplifying these voices makes visible the social and emotional needs of African-American girls in foster care and provides recommendations for minimizing harm and maximizing healing and resilience. This research contributes to the field of social work and supports our growth as helpers in our community working towards inclusive and supportive systems of care.


© 2023 Bahia Anise-Cross DeGruy Overton

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