Exploring the implementation of a life skills training program for adolescents in the Texas foster care system
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The purpose of this exploratory study was to gain an increased understanding of an independent living skills training program's impact on resilience, social support, and life skills for foster care youth participants. This study used a qualitative case study methodology and involved a purposive sample of 16 ethnically diverse youths and 9 adult staff members of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Youth participants were recruited through one of several state-contracted agencies that provided life skills training to youths in Texas. Data were collected through multiple sources and were analyzed using content analysis and descriptive statistics. Scores on standardized measures of resilience, social support, and life skills, and youths' descriptions of these same constructs were compared. The change in scores on the standardized measure of social support were statistically significant (p=.006; p<.05), while total scores on measures of resilience and life skills were not. Although scores were not statistically significant, scores on the measure of resilience were in the "high" range, possibly indicating high levels of internal and external assets, and scores on the standardized measure of life skills indicated that youths showed "mastery" of approximately half of the life skills. Youths' descriptions of social support, resilience, and life skills were consistent with scores on standardized measures. Participants described biological family members as their greatest sources of emotional support and encouragement and their verbal descriptions corresponded with the internal and external assets defined in the standardized measure of resilience. Most participants had difficulty describing and recollecting life skills information such as managing money and locating appropriate housing, which was consistent with scores suggesting they "mastered" only about half of all items on the life skills assessment. Staff participants cited placement changes and lack of transportation as the most frequent occurring reasons a youth stopped attending life skills training. Findings from this study highlighted the strengths of foster care youth and have implications for future use of strengths-based theories and frameworks, and for gender-specific life skills training. Findings also indicate important implications for teaching life skills to youths in foster care and policies related to independent living services.