Abstract: Future Expectations of Adolescents in Care: The Role of Mentoring, Family Engagement and Sense of Belonging (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Future Expectations of Adolescents in Care: The Role of Mentoring, Family Engagement and Sense of Belonging

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Yafit Sulimani- Aidan, PhD, A professor at Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Talia Meital Schwartz Tayri, PhD, Post-doctoral researcher, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Yafit Sulimani-Aidan, Ph.D, Research Fellow, Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education University of Oxford Department of Education
Background: Literature shows that a positive perception of the future is an important protective factor linked to resiliency among youth. However, literature concerning the factors that contribute to positive future expectations among youth in care is scarce. The present study aims to address this research gap by examining the contribution of mentoring relationships to the future expectations of youth in care and to explore the potential role of family engagement in care and sense of belonging in explaining this association. This is the first attempt to incorporate these factors within one explanatory theoretical model to predict future perception among youth in care.

Methods: The sample included 213 adolescents (ages 16-19; 43% were girls) from three main types of out-of-home placements in Israel: therapeutic residential care facilities, youth villages, and foster care families. The instruments tapped the adolescents' personal background, mentoring relationships, their biological families' engagement in care and sense of belonging to the care placement. A three-step analytic plan was employed. First, the associations between the four main study variables and socio-demographic and individual characteristics were examined. Second, we conducted a structural equation modeling analysis (SEM) to examine the fit of the model to the data. Finally, in order to examine whether the indirect paths found were significant, we employed accelerated bias-corrected bootstrap analyses.

Results: The participants reported high levels of supportive mentoring relationships (M = 4.34 SD = .70) and medium levels of positive future expectations (e.g., future expectations regarding achievements (M = 3.40; SD = .43) and family and friends (M = 3.60, SD = .52).

Slightly more than half of the youth reported having mentors who were females (51%). About 70% of the mentors were informal mentor (family members) while third of the mentioned mentors were formal mentors, mainly staff members of the care facility. SEM provided support for the model: ( χ2 = 47.196, df = 40, p = . 202, RMSEA = .02, NFI = .96, CFI = .99, TLI = .99. ). Findings indicate that mentoring contributed to the youths’ future expectations indirectly via family engagement in care, sense of belonging, and the chain mediating effect of family engagement and sense of belonging.

Conclusions and implications: This study highlights mentoring relationships as a significant contributor to cognitive aspects of youths’ development that concern perceptions of themselves as adults in the near and far future. It advances our knowledge regarding the manner by which dynamics between interpersonal and contextual factors shape the future expectations of adolescents in care. In terms of implications for practice, residential and foster care settings should strengthen youths' connections with their families as well as their connectedness to the care settings as an integral part in the youths' intervention planning and staff training. Care settings should also actively incorporate mentors as part of their treatment plans and seek to integrate future orientation components in their planning and training in order to enhance youths’ engagement in their plans, expectations and goals.