Abstract: Normalcy: A Key Resilience-Promoting Factor to Enhance Well-Being Among Youth in Foster Care (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

536P Normalcy: A Key Resilience-Promoting Factor to Enhance Well-Being Among Youth in Foster Care

Saturday, January 19, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Brianne Kothari, PhD, Assistant Professor, Oregon State University-Cascades, Bend, OR
Erin Qadir, Research Assistant, Oregon State University
Jennifer Blakeslee, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Jeffrey Waid, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, St. Paul, MN
Bowen McBeath, PhD, Professor, Portland State University, OR
Lew Bank, PhD, Senior Scientist, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Background and Purpose: Youth in foster care want to participate in activities that they enjoy and develop relationships with peers and adults that are meaningful to them; they want to feel "normal". Nevertheless, research has shown that these activities and connections can be difficult given various eroders of normalcy. For example, placement instability (Simmons-Horton, 2017) contributes to school mobility and peer rejection (Troop-Gordon, 2017; Moses, 2017).  And foster youth’s participation rates are much lower than their peers who are not involved with the child welfare system (Rauktis, Fusco, & Cahalane, 2013). Federal policies (e.g., included within The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014) have been put in place to promote normalcy. Our understanding is evolving; yet, no clear definition of normalcy exists and there is no standard way to measure normalcy in the child welfare context. This scoping review of the literature was focused on developing a clear conceptual definition of normalcy that can inform the development of measurement tools.

Methods: A methodological framework (see Arskey & O’Malley, 2003) was followed to conduct this scoping review of 30 years of literature. Library databases (e.g.,PsycInfo, ERIC and Google Scholar) were used to identify  relevant articles using key search terms (e.g., child welfare”,“normalcy”, “well-being” “resilience”, “extracurricular activities” and “social competence”). Articles were analyzed if they met specific inclusion criteria. Zotero was used to collate and organize articles. In addition, thematic analysis and key deductive indicators from sources were used to chart and summarize data and develop the conceptual definition and domains.

Results: Clear themes emerged from the existing conceptual and empirical literature. Normalcy is defined as youth’s participation in healthy, developmentally appropriate activities and their ability to understand and engage in socially appropriate behaviors and meaningful communication with the peers and adults in their lives. Youth voice was demonstrated to be a critically important. Four domains of normalcy were identified: youth’s participation in: 1.) Social and Cultural Activities, Life Skills/Learning Opportunities and/or Community Support Services; 2.) Home Environment including relationships with caregivers and siblings; 3.) School/Community including relationships with teachers and other adults; and 4.) Activities with Prosocial Peers.  

Conclusions and Implications: Normalcy involves youth’s active participation in both activities and relationships; this participation is strongly associated with a host of well-being outcomes. The overall goal of this work is to move from (a) conceptualizing normalcy to (b) measuring normalcy over time to (c) identifying policies and practices that promote normalcy and intervening to improve normalcy and enhance overall well-being. A standard definition of normalcy has the potential to advance research, policy and practice. Operationalization of normalcy is currently underway using a multi-method, multi-informant longitudinal dataset. Relatively small actions (e.g., getting youth regularly involved in an extracurricular activity that they enjoy, and developing prosocial relationships with those peers and adults) can improve normalcy and enhance well-being for this vulnerable group. Presentation of findings will include a visual model with domain descriptions and examples.