Former foster youth experiences with higher education: Opportunities and challenges

Barbara Tobolowsky, Maria Scannapieco, Donna Aguiniga, Elissa Madden - Children and Youth Services Review


This mixed method study explores the postsecondary experiences of foster alumni in a large southwest urban area. The primary data sources were a survey and individual interviews with former foster youth who have or were attending a postsecondary institution. However, additional information was gathered through focus groups with foster parents, Child Protective Service (CPS) caseworkers, and community service providers who offer transition services to individuals who have aged out of foster care. The findings focus on three main themes that include: the perceived value of higher education; the financial, personal, and educational challenges getting to and through higher education; and the important role of supports in the alumni's lives. Implications for practice and policy are also included.