Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care Research Paper

Pages: 12 (3533 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Sociology  ·  Written: July 10, 2019

In this stage, the child needs to be supported by love and affection from parents so that the child learns to trust. The issue that many foster children face is that they suffer from a traumatic experience in many cases, which is why they are placed in foster care: typically it happens that the children are exposed to abuse, or are neglected, or something of that nature occurs, which prevents the stages of psychosocial development from proceeding. The conflicts that should be resolved are often never resolved and the result is that the children become adults with deep psychological problems that prevent them from fulfilling their potential. This is why many of them turn to drugs or alcohol for self-medication: they are attempting to cope for the unresolved issues and conflicts of earlier stages of conflict that have never been addressed.

Singer and Berzin (2015) refer to the conflict that young adults face as emerging adulthood, and they note that this challenge is particularly problematic for young adults aging out of foster care because of the conflict of identity formation and independence that goes along with it. These issues are discussed in Erikson’s model, but the idea of emerging adulthood by Singer and Berzin is slightly different in that foster youths who are liberated have a need for continued support because they do not have the normal framework for family that other youths have during this same age development. In other words, the needs of young adults aging out of foster care are not being met and the child welfare system could do more to help meet those needs (Berzin, Singer & Hokanson, 2014).

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In Erikson’s model, the fifth and sixth stages are the crucial ones for the young adult coming out of foster care. The fifth stage is characterized by the Identity vs. Role Confusion conflict (ages 12-18) and the sixth stage is characterized by the Intimacy vs. Isolation conflict, which can last from age 18 to 40. The young adult aging out of foster care will be concerned primarily with establishing an identity or role for himself and having some type of emotional or social support to prevent him from slipping into isolation and desolation (Knight, 2017).

Research Paper on Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care Assignment

Young adulthood, ages 18-26, are the most critical years for the child emerging into adulthood as these conflicts have to be addressed or the individual will succumb to a number of crisis and challenges, both internal and external. As Lee and Berrick (2014) note, the identity capital framework can be used to help make sense of how young adults aging out of foster care achieve stability in their lives in spite of the challenges they may face. The identity capital framework refers to tangible and intangible resources: “Tangible resources are those that are ‘socially visible’ and deemed valuable by society, providing entrance and membership into social groups and institutions,” such as human, social and financial capital, education, and employable skills (Lee & Berrick, 2014, p. 79).

Intangible skills refer to refer to “personal or internal assets, and more specifically, personal agency and adult identity”—i.e., a level of self-actualization that conforms to the pyramid used by Maslow representing the needs hierarchy of individuals (Lee & Berrick, 2014, p. 79). The ability of the young adult to make decisions for himself, to take responsibility and to be accountable are all intangible skills that the young adult has to possess in order to succeed on his own. The problem is that too few young adults who age out of foster care have either the tangible resources or the intangible resources to make it work.

How an Intervention (or Lack Thereof) Might Affect the Individual’s Life

Intervention, therefore, should focus on facilitating the transition of young adults out of the foster care system by prepping them in advance and training them to develop the tangible and intangible skills and resources that will be required of them when they are liberated. Such an intervention would be behavioral, educative, and social, and it would require a substantial amount of time and input—but this is essentially the only way this population will be able to address the issues it currently faces. Without such an intervention the population can expect more of the same—more substance abuse issues, more unresolved trauma and inner conflict issues, more unemployment and more homelessness.

With the help of a system that understands the specific needs of the young adult, the population could improve its chances of a successful transition to adulthood. The system has to provide ways, however, for the population to develop the tangible and intangible resources required. Otherwise, it is serving no purpose, is failing the children as they mature, and is only delaying an inevitable collapse—a collapse that could be prevented with a little attention to tangible resource and intangible skill formation and accumulation.

How My Studies and Experience Will Assist Me in Advocacy

My research into this topic will help me to advocate for this population by allowing me to understand the full scope of the issue, as Lee and Berrick (2014) have so explicitly outlined it using their identity capital framework. That framework allows the any who are interested in the issue to perceive the needs areas that the population has and to take action by raising awareness about those needs areas or by addressing them directly through action oriented to facilitating the development of the tangible and intangible resources in question. Without having understood the issue in these terms, it would be far more difficult to advocate for the population.

Now that it has been revealed what specifically the population requires, the problem becomes one of making sure the population’s needs are met. The young adults who will age out of foster care should be receiving education and training in developing their human and social capital and also in obtaining a level of self-actualization that will allow them to make effective decisions on their own behalf, be accountable and demonstrate responsibility when they leave the system. The question is: what can a social worker do to see that this happens?

The answer to that question is the work of advocacy. Advocacy is about raising awareness, promoting a cause, implementing a change and making a difference. The issue with this population is that the foster care system is not putting in place the necessary steps that will enable the child to achieve a level of self-actualization. But of course, as Maslow points out, the hierarchy of needs model consists of several foundational steps that must be taken before self-actualization can be achieved—and taking these steps is going to be dependent upon the community.

For these steps include obtaining food and shelter, love and affection, esteem and friendship. Unless a family of some kind is willing to take the youths in the foster care system, many of them will be left without ever having obtained these all-important levels. Their development towards self-actualization will thus be blunted and no advancement or progress will actually be achieved. To avoid that outcome, I can advocate on the behalf of the population in the community, as the community is where the families live and work and come together.

Connecting with families over this issue is one of the primary ways to improve advocacy. Families in the community need to be made to understand that just because a youth is in the foster care does not mean the youth is already a criminal or has no right to a family, a community, or a network of support. Every family in every community has to begin to take notice of this population, reach out, provide support of some kind so that the needs of the child can be met and self-actualization achieved. If this can be achieved, the community itself is more likely to benefit, become stronger, and accomplish more, as the marginalized and underserved population of young adults transitioning out of foster care will no longer suffer from an inadequate support system, a lack of human, social and financial capital and the intangible resources, such as self-discipline, responsibility and drive.

Advocacy can also be performed within the system itself. The child welfare system could be doing more to address the tangible and intangible needs of the forgotten foster care children. Since they are not receiving the emotional, social and mental health support they require, the system has to fill the gap by finding a way to provide that support. Whether this is through an expansion of social work activity or the development of mini-families that can give the attention and care to the young ones that will help them resolve their stage of development conflicts, the solution has to take into consideration the all-important aspect of developing tangible and intangible resources for the children.

This means that the child welfare system cannot stop at simply providing shelter. It has to ensure that these children are given… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care.  (2019, July 10).  Retrieved June 21, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care."  10 July 2019.  Web.  21 June 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care."  July 10, 2019.  Accessed June 21, 2021.