Abstract: Informal Mentoring Stability for Foster Youth Transitioning to Higher Education (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

352P Informal Mentoring Stability for Foster Youth Transitioning to Higher Education

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Grace Gowdy, PhD, Assistant Professor, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, NC
Sean Hogan, PhD, Associate Professor, California State University, Fullerton, CA
Katie Roosevelt, Doctoral Student, North Carolina A&T State University, NC
Background and Purpose: Research has demonstrated that foster youth who report informal mentoring relationships are more likely to be successful in higher education settings. Two types of informal mentors available to foster youth students are core and capital mentors. Core mentors include long-standing relationships in the youth’s most-immediate social network. Core mentors tend to provide more emotional and instrumental support. Capital mentors, conversely, are newer relationships that provide good advice to the young person, connect them to new resources, and bolsters their feelings of connection to a common institution or community, such as a college campus. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the stability of core and capital mentoring relationships for foster youth transitioning away from the foster care system and into a 4-year post-secondary institution. The expectation was that core mentoring relationships would be more stable over time, when compared to capital mentoring relationships.

Methods: Social network data were gathered for foster youth students at 3 time points: 1) just prior to beginning a journey at a 4-year college or university, 2) at the end of their first academic year, and 3) at the end of their second academic year. A cluster analysis was conducted to determine which individuals, based on relationship characteristics, qualified as core or capital mentors. Once the mentorship relationships were identified, individual mentors were tracked in the lives of foster youth students across all 3 time points. Multinomial logistic regression was used to determine the likelihood of each mentoring typology being present at multiple data points, ranging from 1 to 3. Control variables included the mentor and student’s ages, ethnicity, and gender. The proportion of common and new core and capital mentoring relationships over time was also examined.

Results: Results indicated that core mentoring relationships were reported more frequently and were more likely to persist over time for foster youth students transitioning away from the foster care system and into higher education. Interestingly, while the proportion of capital relationships did not significantly change over time, the composition of a foster youth student’s capital mentoring network was not stable. Results indicated that foster youth maintained or conserved a level of capital mentorship through the replacement of new capital mentoring relationships following their transition away from foster care-based relationships to institutional-based relationships.

Conclusions and Implications: While core mentors appear more stable over time, capital mentors are more likely to be replaced by other capital mentors. This implies that core mentors can provide access to stable relationships for youth who may experience instability as they transition out of care. It also implies that maintaining or conserving a consistent level of relationships with capital mentors is important to foster youth students. Capital mentors can provide informational support, access to resources, and connection to their new campus-based environment. Practitioners working with foster youth students should prioritize the establishment of both types of informal mentoring relationships in order to optimize the support available through each type of mentoring.