Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Charlene Desir

Committee Member

Nibaldo Galleguillos


Foster Care, Homelessness, Mental Health, Phenomenology, Social Support, Youth


The purpose of this applied dissertation was to explore the lived experiences of teens aging out of foster care, in an effort to better understand their needs. While the child welfare system is geared towards family preservation, reunification, and adoption, most young adults transitioning from the foster care system are not reunited with family members or are only reunited as a last resort. Unfortunately, every year, thousands are leaving the support of the foster care system, unprepared. Youth departing the child welfare system are not gradually transitioned into becoming self-sufficient. They do not have an effective support system available if they fail or need help. Instead, when they leave foster care, they are simply released from the system they have become accustomed to and most struggle during this transition. The researcher conducted three 60-minute interviews with nine former foster youth. Questions were based on a set of interview questions (Appendix C), developed and used by Dr. Lee (2010), to assist in understanding the lived experiences of former foster youth. From an analysis of the data gathered from the young adults’ interviews and the researcher’s observations, four prevalent themes emerged: 1) Looking for the ‘care’ in foster care, 2) the threat of mental disability, 3) pick of the draw, and 4) navigating emotionally alone. This study will allow the state and foster care system to examine the highlighted issues and to consider appropriate corrections. Gaps have been identified in the system, as it currently operates, and there is a need to examine the current practices with internal and external lenses, in order to recommend possible changes.