Abstract: Psychological Well-Being Among Black Adolescents in Foster Care: Does Gender Make a Difference? (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

314P Psychological Well-Being Among Black Adolescents in Foster Care: Does Gender Make a Difference?

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Abigail Williams-Butler, PhD, Assistant Professor, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ
Adrian Gale, PhD, Postdoctoral Scholar, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Marquitta Dorsey, PhD, Assistant Professor, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background/Purpose: Black adolescents in the foster care system are at risk for a wide variety of negative outcomes as they transition to adulthood. The field of child welfare has historically focused on physical safety and legal permanency with little emphasis on child well-being or the importance of social relationships in positive youth development. Little is known about the role of relational permanence in regards to race and gender for Black adolescents in foster care. This study adds to the literature regarding two primary research questions: 1) Is relational permanence related to psychological well-being across time? 2) Does gender moderate the association between relational permanence and psychological well-being among Black adolescents in the foster care system?

Relational permanence is a form of social support characterized by the presence of an ongoing caring and supportive relationship with parental figures or other important non-parental adults (e.g., foster parents and teachers). Relational permanence is especially important for youth in foster care, because they often lack the financial and social support of parented youth which places them at risk for negative developmental outcomes as they transition to adulthood. The effects of trauma is especially relevant for youth in the foster care system. It is important to know whether relational permanence makes a difference for Black girls and Black boys in foster care because this knowledge can be used to inform targeted interventions to improve positive developmental outcomes for Black youth in care.

Methods: Data were drawn from the Black subsample (N = 489) of the Child and Adolescent Needs Assessment (CANS) and Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) Integrated Assessment. There were 282 males in the sample and 207 females in the sample. The study spanned the time between the first and second assessment of the CANS while youth were still in foster care.

Results: Regression analyses indicated that relational permanence at Time 1 was significant in predicting improved relational permanence at Time 2. Results indicated that there was a positive association between relational permanence and psychological well-being for boys (β= .21, p< .01) but not for girls. In addition, experiencing abuse and neglect, as opposed to neglect alone, had a negative impact on girls’ psychological well-being (β=.12, p< .05), but did not have an impact for boys’ well-being.

Conclusion and Implications: Though relational permanence was important for Black boys in predicting higher psychological well-being, it was not predictive for girls. This finding confirms our hypothesis that relational permanence plays a different role for Black boys and girls. Further research needs to be conducted which examines factors impacting and improving psychological well-being for Black girls in foster care. As type of maltreatment predicted psychological well-being for girls but not boys, it is important to identify culturally sensitive research exploring factors and interventions relate to coping with abuse and neglect. This may especially be the case when it comes to sexual abuse. Targeted interventions that specifically address internalization of trauma is also particularly important in improving developmental outcomes for Black girls in care.