Abstract: Social-Emotional Well-Being Among Youth in out-of-Home Care (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

65P Social-Emotional Well-Being Among Youth in out-of-Home Care

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Elizabeth Anthony, PhD, Associate Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Judy Krysik, PhD, Associate Professor, Arizona State University, AZ
Cara Kelly, PhD, Social Work/Trauma Research, Phoenix Children's Hospital, Phoenix, AZ
Background and PurposeSocial-emotional well-being can be conceptualized as the way young people feel about themselves, how they relate to others close to them (including caregivers, teachers, and peers), and how they behave (Isakson et al., 2009).  One of the challenges to the ability to measure social-emotional well-being has been the difficulty obtaining both youths’ and caregivers’ perspectives (Authors, 2017). Standardized instruments of behavior tend to focus on diagnostic criteria and clinical cutoff scores that reveal more about problems than strengths.  Purely qualitative measures, on the other hand, are subjective and make it difficult to provide comparative information.  For the purposes of the current study, we employed non-diagnostic quantitative measures from the perspectives of caregivers and youth to assess social-emotional well-being. The research questions guiding this study were:  1) How do caregivers assess social-emotional well-being for the children/youth in the care? and 2) How do youth assess their own social emotional well-being?

MethodsChildren and youth living in group home or shelter settings and their caregivers (57 children/youth and 57 caregivers) were selected from the list of eligible participants provided by the child welfare agency.  Eligibility requirements included: 1)  living in either a group home or shelter at the initial point of contact, and 2) age up to 18 years at the initial point of contact.  The average age of youth participants was 13 years (SD=3.38).  There were more males (n=35; 61%) than females (n=22; 38.6%). The standardized measures administered included the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale (BERS-2) (Epstein, Mooney, Ryser, & Pierce, 2004) for youth ages 5-18 years and the Youth Quality of Life- Short From (YQOL-SF) (Patrick, Edwards, & Topolski, 2002) for youth ages 13-18.

Results:  Of the 57 children/youth, all 57 completed the BERS-2.  Another 43 also completed the YQOL-SF. Per the criteria established by the authors of the BERS-2, the majority of youth in our sample fell within the category of average or above for each of the subscales, as well as for the strengths index.  Fewer of the adult caregivers, in contrast, rated the youth as average and in many instances their scores fell into the below average and poor categories.  The caregiver overall strength index score was in the average range.  The youth overall strength index score was above average.

ImplicationsStudy findings suggest that young people overall rate their strengths higher than their caregivers do.  It is encouraging that these young people, who have been through the traumatic experience of removal from their parents among other painful experiences, consider their strengths as relative to their peers.  However, caregivers assess the social-emotional well-being of the children in their care to be lower than the youth assess themselves, even though ratings were overall “average.” Caregivers may feel a strong sense of responsibility for the care of the children; however, they may also have limited time to get to know the child.  The meaning of these differences and the implications for practice require are discussed.