Lauretta Schaefer is a dance student who spent her early childhood in the foster care system before being adopted. She is now working with social work professor Doris Houston, director of the Illinois Center for Child Welfare and Adoption Studies, to study the factors that influence the academic success of Illinois students who have spent time with their families. Home.
The center received a $ 50,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation last year to partner with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in the study of two years. Houston heads a research team that includes Schaefer; student researchers Marquise Brown, LaShawnda Kilgore and Verneice Prince; social work professors Deneca Avant and Christopher Gjesfjeld; and communication teacher Aimee Miller-Ott.
Redbird Fellow: Fall 2016
The study grew out of a welcome reception hosted by the School of Social Work for former foster students attending the state of Illinois.
“We were interested in developing support programs for this student population, but we wanted to target our efforts by doing a ‘needs and assets assessment’ first to get a better idea of what students want and what. which students need most to be successful in college, ”Houston mentioned.
The study examines the social, emotional, and academic lives of 350 former foster youth who receive DCFS scholarships to attend institutions in Illinois. The researchers are conducting two surveys thanks to the Spencer Foundation grant and also plan to interview 32 students thanks to a second grant funded by the administrative offices of the Illinois courts.
According to data collected in the first survey, students displayed high levels of resilience, as evidenced by self-confidence, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm for attending college. However, they lacked skills in time management and study.
Schaefer said DCFS could do a better job preparing foster youth for college while they are in high school. “I don’t think I can come in first grade, and suddenly you can correct my bad study habits,” she said.
Researchers hope to find ways to increase college admission and graduation rates for young people in foster care. Several studies have shown that the graduation rate of young people in foster care is between 4 and 6% on average, Houston said.
“We are doing action-oriented research,” Houston said. “Education is the great equalizer, and we want to do research that will have an impact on society. “