Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Robert Basso

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


This dissertation reports on a study undertaken to learn, from young adults doing well in the community after being graduate from lengthy periods of out-of-home-care, what these veterans named as contributions of the system to their resilience. In-depth interviews with nineteen successful long-term child welfare graduates have produced over five hundred pages of transcribed interview data, which has been coded, analyzed and the findings from which are presented in this report. The findings are necessarily based on a specific definition of “successful” employed in conceptualizing the project and gathering the sample which, although it attempts to minimize class bias nonetheless is necessarily reflected in the study’s findings. Findings of significance include the following: 1) participants exhibited high levels of social responsiveness and cooperation, 2) they reported strong feelings of being different from “normal” children raised in their biological families and they experienced stigmatization, 3) referrals came disproportionately from the PARC program (an independence preparation center) as compared with all other geographic functional areas of the two major child welfare agencies involved in the study, and 4) positive interventions in young graduates’ lives happened throughout childhood and early adulthood, suggesting that there is never a time to say “it’s too late” to make contact with the young adult client . Contributions to resilience named by participants fall into five general categories. They are: (1) pathfinders and role models, (2) experiences that raise and maintain self-esteem and self-efficacy, (3) exposure to opportunities, (4) patterns of protective thinking, and (5) community memberships. Implications derived from these findings include the need to systematically and planfully include these aids to resilience with all youngsters in out-of-home care. Practice with youngsters in care needs to be steadily and consistently informed by the experience of young adults who have graduated from care, as well as those still living in foster or group settings. Young people who do not have families to whom they will return are entitled to have continued parental support in the same way young adults living in their families receive some instrumental and affective support from their parents despite chronological age. It is suggested that stigmatization of youngsters who have lived in out-of-home care should be acknowledged and studied along with the meaning behind society’s social construction of the role of “foster child” and the reverence afforded the biological family.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons