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What happens to foster children in later adolescence? A study and evaluation of the adjustment of thirty-one wards of the Superintendent of Child Welfare for the province of British Columbia, who have been in foster care, and who reached eighteen years of age during the year January 1, 1954-December… Watson, Edwin Francis

Abstract

The purpose of the present study is an assessment of the personal and social adjustment of older foster children and the extent to which the present foster home program in rural British Columbia has facilitated meeting these personal and social needs. The group examined, thirty-one in number, were all adolescents in the care of the superintendent of child welfare for British Columbia who reached eighteen years during this year, and who were, or had recently been, legal wards of the Superintendent placed in foster homes throughout the province. The analysis undertaken involved compilation, of available factual data on the family background, including cultural and racial factors, marital status of the parents and reasons for the breakdown of the child’s natural family. The placement experience of the children themselves includes examination of the ages of the children at the time they entered foster care, the number of foster home placements each child underwent, the intelligence, educational and employment as well as health factors. Against this factual picture of the group as a whole, assessment of personal and social maturity on three levels was made against four descriptive criteria of adjustment. The latter included (a) the adolescent's feelings of his own worth and value as a person, (b) the ways in which he was able to handle the realities of his immediate environment, (c) his capacity to withstand the frustrations of his daily living, and finally, (d) the capacity which he evidenced in forming relationships with those around him. The findings of the study indicate foster home care was a meaningful and constructive experience for a majority of the adolescents studies, all of whom had strong feelings of inferiority and lack of personal worth at the time they entered foster care. It was also found that often these feelings persisted into latter adolescence and hampered their growth toward responsible adulthood. A lack of successful adjustment was observed in a minority of cases, expecially for children admitted in early adolescence as a result of delinquent behaviour. The study adds further point to the need for extensive research on the effectiveness of foster care in meeting the needs of foster children of all ages. Comparison with a related study conducted by A.L. Langdale in 1951, suggests similar findings in the meaning which a foster care experience holds for the older adolescent, and the necessity of an intensive exploration of ways in which the minority who have not benefitted by foster care may be assisted to a more positive personal and social adjustment in adult life.

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