2010 Harvard Student Research Conference
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Kimberly J. Snodgrass

Currently, there are 542,000 children residing in foster care within the United States that are subjected to many forms of mistreatment (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007). When children are taken away from their biological families, many have histories of significant maltreatment and trauma (Bruskas, 2008). Adolescent foster youth, for example, have a higher tendency to have difficulties in life. They are predisposed to experience depression, behavioral issues, psychological problems, and, consequentially, depleted educational skills. Various studies have concluded that there is an education gap between foster youth because they have more transfer records, take special education classes, and are less likely to be on a college academic track. Whereas the overall graduation rate for high school is 70% nationwide, the graduation rate for foster children drops to 50% (U.S. Department of Education, 2000).

Additionally, it has been shown in multiple studies that children caught in the midst of violence, trauma, unstable environments, and foster care are more likely to experience developmental hardships and difficulties (Harden, 2004). Furthermore, children that are abused or deprived have been noted to have diminutive results with development and interactive experiences with others (Kenrick, 2000). This exacerbates the multiple risk factors that they already have attached to them.

Such risks involve the youth having low self-esteem as well as a low sense of self-efficacy. Youth in foster care further cope with poverty, divorce, or a host of other potentially traumatic experiences. Given the criterion for the development of mental health disorders, many foster youth have at least one or more of the risk factors in their background due to the nature of their placement in foster care. As a result, their opportunities to thrive in their internal and external world are reduced as they feel a sense of lost identity. Given this outcome, many of the children in foster care may have problems trusting others, which works to the detriment of their ability to build and sustain relationships

In review of these devastating facts, it is the duty of child advocates, teachers, policy makers, and system organizations to propose alternatives to reduce the harsh outcomes that our youth currently face. This research is designed and intended for child advocates and educators that wish to help influence and change the current state of affairs within the national foster care and education systems. The researcher has comprised various literature articles that have been peer reviewed in order to examine the traumatic experiences that foster children face, as well as intervention and preventative efforts in order to promote success within this disadvantaged community of foster children.