Fostering Leaders of Our World: Facilitators and Barriers to Educational Success Among a Cohort of Foster Scholars in College

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Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

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This paper highlights findings from the first phase of an ongoing qualitative Youth Participatory Acton Research (YPAR) study with a group of students with foster care experience at a large public university in the Northeastern United States. The first phase of data collection consisted of a focus group designed and carried out by co-researchers, amongst themselves. Data was analyzed in two ways, by a faculty member and doctoral student, using thematic content analysis, and through a collaborative analytic process with student co-researchers using an adapted version of Carol Gilligan’s, “Listening Guide” in which co-researchers created, analyzed and performed “I Poems” from the focus group transcript. Findings from each data analytic process were compared and contrasted; discrepancies amongst themes from each analytic process led to the merging and creation of new modified themes. Findings illuminate the barriers and facilitators to completion of high school, and applying to college for this cohort of students, as well as barriers and facilitators to retention once in college. Additionally, recommendations are made for university professionals to become more affirming of scholars connected to foster care systems. This study is unique in that it is the first known study to engage with college students with foster care experience in a participatory research process that centers their voices, concerns and priorities in both research design and data. Student organizing and action emanating from the PAR approach are also discussed.


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