Abstract: Black Girl Magic: Stories of Resilience Among Black Females in the Foster Care and Juvenile Justice Systems (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Black Girl Magic: Stories of Resilience Among Black Females in the Foster Care and Juvenile Justice Systems

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Mint, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sherri Simmons-Horton, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Karen Kolivoski, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor, Howard University, Washington, DC
Dora Blake, MSW Candidate, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
Background and Purpose: Youth who come into contact with both the foster care and juvenile justice systems, known as dual-status youth, are more likely to experience adverse outcomes than young people in the general population or who experience a single system. Black youth are overrepresented in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, respectively, and are further disproportionately represented among dual-status youth. Specifically, Black females have demonstrated steady increases within the dual-status population. Although dual-status youth have deleterious outcomes across a range of life domains into adulthood, many Black female dual-status youth exhibit resiliency, and go on to lead rewarding and successful lives. Most research has not addressed the specific experiences or needs of Black females, who are at the intersection of race and gender, nor amplified their voices and lived experiences. Thus, the purpose of this study is to explore protective factors of resilience among Black female dual-status youth and identify key turning points and strengths in their system experiences.

Methods: This qualitative study consists of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with up to 20 Black adult females with a history of involvement in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. Participants were recruited nationally via electronic fliers and interviews were conducted through Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviews elicit information on demographics, foster care and juvenile justice system experiences (e.g., placements, court outcomes, adversities), as well as strengths (e.g., accomplishments, positive self-qualities, prosocial relationships during system involvement). Collected data are being transcribed verbatim, and repeatedly reviewed by the evaluators, who are conducting line-by-line analysis to extract rich segments of the data. Transcribed data will be entered into the qualitative data management program, Atlas.ti to arrange data into value codes.

Results: Study participants represented Black adult females with previous dual-system involvement engaged in various careers including a civil rights attorney, child welfare advocate, social work student, and a business entrepreneur. Some key themes detail participant stories of: (1) their adverse experiences while involved in the foster care and juvenile justice system; (2) individuals and milestone events serving as a life-changing turning point; and (3) what participants believe is their personal source of strength, or their “Black Girl Magic”. For example, participants noted: being “indestructible” to systems believed intended to destroy them, and “to still have hope to experience joy, find peace”. Participants further attribute varied factors related to their resilience, including key meaningful individuals in their lives, their self-determination, and personal spiritual faith and beliefs.

Conclusions and Implications: Results from this study will inform add to the limited body of research focused on lived experiences of dual-status youth, and it adds a nuanced narrative of Black dual-status females, that highlights their personal triumphs following traumatic experiences in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Child welfare and juvenile justice practitioners, researchers, and policy makers on implications are able to gain new insights to inform on best practices and policies with this special population.