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.