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The academic challenges foster youth encounter during their P-12 education have been widely reported. Yet, despite these challenges, the majority of foster youth desire postsecondary education. What is less known is the reason why so few foster youth alumni who desire a four-year college degree, achieve this goal. For the participants in this four-year longitudinal study, maltreatment, resulting in foster care placement, and the ensuing exposure to the foster care system, resulted in trauma histories and mental health diagnoses. Anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were the most common diagnosis. The participants shared the ways in which these mental health challenges manifested throughout their college education. Of those in the study, almost half successfully graduated from college, a third dropped out, and only two remain enrolled. This study provides a unique and critical insight into the experiences of foster youth, enrolled in a four-year university, by sharing their stories


Originally published in the journal, Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 75, January 2018, Pages 73-81.

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