Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1-2019


This study examines the relational resilience, emotional self-efficacy, and self-reported strengths of foster youth, using a community based participatory research framework. The aggregate of research to date focuses on detrimental circumstances foster youth have experienced and the associated psychopathology. The present study expands the focus to individual strengths, informing our understanding of resiliency among foster youth.

A survey was co-created with foster youth focused on demographic background, perceptions of strengths, and resilience. This survey included items from the positive acceptance of change / secure relationships subscale of the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-CDSC), and emotional self-efficacy subscale of the Self-Efficacy Questionnaire for Children (SEQ-C). Open-ended questions focused on youth’s strengths, helping them overcome challenges. Foster youth ages 16-24 were recruited from non-profit organizations serving foster youth in Bay Area and were provided a $25 gift-card incentive to participate.

Participants (n = 85) self-identified as feminine/female (51.2%, n = 43), as African-American/Black (40.5%, n = 34), Hispanic/Latinx (25%, n = 21) and Multi-Ethnic (15.5%, n = 14), and reported a mean age of 21.06 (SD = 2.12). Mean age at entry into care was 10.7 (SD = 5.3) years; average duration in care was 6.7 (SD = 5.8) years.

Analysis indicated that, on average, youth reported moderate - high levels of positive acceptance of change / secure relationships, and emotional self-efficacy. Specifically, 92% (n = 72) reported an ability to deal with whatever comes, most to all of the time. Seventy-one percent (n = 56) reported an ability to prevent becoming nervous sometimes or often. These frequencies were higher than those reported with non-foster youth samples, including samples on which the CD-CDSC and SEQ-C were normed. Qualitative data further indicated themes of strengths used to overcome challenges to include reliance on friends, reminders of overcoming adversity, and optimism about the future.

The results suggest that, despite increased rates of negative outcomes and mental health problems, foster youth self-identify as strong and resilient. Future research is needed to replicate and further extend these findings and determine the extent to which they generalize to younger foster youth and those living in non-urban settings.

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