Motivation and Autonomy in Transitional Youth in Out-of-Home Care

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Boyko, Samantha
Child Welfare , Youth , Foster Care , Crown Ward , Transition , Motivation , Autonomy , Self-Determination , Residential Care , Social Work , Education , Post-Secondary Education
In Ontario, children in the child welfare system or in residential care placements away from their biological parents, are considered an at-risk population in education and must be supported in Ontario’s schools. Academic achievement for children in care is an area of concern and is associated with poor employment and life outcomes. Transitioning, or children aging-out or leaving the child welfare system, is an even more vulnerable time for these children. Though there is a significant gap in the literature of children in care in higher education, post-secondary education and specifically university education is associated with positive life outcomes. This study utilized a narrative inquiry approach with interviews to explore autonomy and motivation in the educational experiences of youth from care leading to university. Through the lens of Self-Determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2020), this study adds to the literature surrounding outcomes and supports for youth from care and explores the individual experiences of these youth in the Ontario education system. This research project asked: (a) what educational factors led to the success of transitioned youth in out-of-home care; (b) how successfully transitioned youth experienced motivation in their education leading to university; and (c) how and why perceptions of autonomy affected their motivation in attending and continuing their education. Data analyzed through narrative thematic analysis revealed three themes: Living a “double life”, Creating a path, and Importance of support. The findings and recommendations of this study will enable educational stakeholders to develop supports and strategies to help all youth from care for inclusive and successful education.
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