Johanna K.P. Greeson, Allison E. Thompson, Samira Ali, Rebecca Stern Wenger
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 non-parental 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 well being. Future studies are needed to better understand the experiences of older foster youth
with an actual natural mentoring intervention, including challenges, opportunities, and outcomes.
Dr. Johanna K.P. Greeson is passionate about reforming the child welfare system, using research to build better futures for youth who age out of foster care, and realizing the power of connections to caring adults for all vulnerable youth. Her research agenda is resiliency-focused and based in the strengths and virtues that enable foster youth to not only survive, but thrive. Dr. Greeson’s published work includes scholarly articles on youth aging out of foster care, independent living, natural mentoring, evidence-based practices for youth in foster care, residential group care, intensive in-home therapy, low-income home-ownership, and child/adolescent traumatic stress. Dr. Greeson is currently piloting an innovative natural mentoring intervention for older youth in foster care in partnership with Philadelphia Department of Human Services. This project was funded by the Children's Bureau.
Allison Thompson received her Master of Social Services from Bryn Mawr College. Allison attended Cairn University in Langhorne, PA as an undergraduate, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Prior to joining SP2’s Ph.D. program in Social Welfare, Allison worked as a research writer in the Philadelphia Department of Human Services. Her research interests include the transition to adulthood among youth aging out of foster care, natural mentoring for older youth in foster care, relational permanence, positive youth development theory, and resiliency, risk, and protective factors.
Dr. Samira Ali received her PhD in social welfare from the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. Her scholarship focuses on community-based participatory research (CBPR), primary and secondary HIV prevention, and the impact of structural conditions on youth and women’s health behaviors in global and local settings. Samira’s dissertation research utilized a CBPR framework and mixed-methods design to explore sex worker mothers’ relationship and sexual health communication with their adolescent children in Kolkata, India. Particularly, with the sex worker community in Kolkata, she designed, implemented, and tested the feasibility of culturally tailored, family-based sexual health communication intervention. She is also a coordinator on a team of academic and community partners in New York City for a series of community-based studies examining the impact of housing as a structural intervention on risk behaviors and mental health of women living with HIV. She has experience working with children and families that have been impacted by HIV/AIDS in New York City.