ATTACHMENT EXPERIENCES OF LATINO YOUTH EXITING THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM: A QUALITATIVE STUDY
Every year the number of Latino/Hispanic children and youth who enter and exit the foster care system continues to increase. Many studies focus on relational experiences, however, several overlook Latino/Hispanic populations, including cultural differences. Therefore, this study focuses on the attachment experiences of Latino/Hispanic adults who exited the foster care system and how cultural differences impacted their outcomes. The study seeks to understand the attachment experiences of former Latino/Hispanic foster youth through retrospective accounts. The study examined which relational experiences provided ongoing support, where these supportive relationships and resources were found, and what made them helpful. A convenience sample of 12 former Latino foster youth emancipated from the foster care system or juvenile detention centers were interviewed. The semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed using grounded theory, NVivo software, and super-ordinate coding. The analysis produced seven qualitative themes: (a) Forgotten or Distorted Memories, (b) Lack of Support, (c) Lack of Meaningful Contact with Biological Families, (d) Repeated Abuse and Traumas, (e) Positive Impact From One Secure Relationship, (f) Adult Connections with Biological Families, and (g) Difficulty Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships. Overall, former foster youth who reported having at least one significant relationship during or after their foster care tenure described a more positive outcome. The themes presented similarities (e.g., attachment disruptions, lack of support, etc.) and differences (e.g., collectivist values, Latino values, etc.) between Latino foster youth and their Caucasian and African American counterparts. Future research directions consider preventive measures, culturally sensitive services, generational differences, adverse childhood experiences, and countertransference.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Psychology
Clinical Psychology, Hispanic American Studies