Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Social Work

First Advisor

Michele D. Hanna, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jennifer Bellamy

Third Advisor

Leslie Hasche


Aged out, Foster care, Middle adulthood, Phenomenological, Qualitative


Middle adulthood as a developmental stage is often neglected in developmental research, yet it is vitally important to the cohesiveness of the life span as this is a time when integrating the experiences of the earlier developmental periods such as emerging adulthood, setting the stage for healthy aging. Emerging adulthood is but one unique stage in the life course, and situating this phase within a holistic developmental context is essential. Doing so illuminates the ways in which the past influences current functioning and the ways in which one's present developmental state sets the stage for later development. To date, no such inquiry has been conducted for foster care alumni. As such this study has two aims 1) Understand the current functioning of adults between the ages of 30-59 who aged out of foster care and; 2) gain insight into the journey of each participant from the moment they exited care as a young adult into middle adulthood. This qualitative inquiry employed an interpretive phenomenological approach (IPA) to understand the narratives of 22 participants between the ages of 30-59 who aged out of foster care. All participants were recruited using social media and participated in a loosely structured interview. Findings indicate that during the period of emerging adulthood these participants did indeed experience a great deal of chaos in support of current literature. However, after age 30 these individuals had become largely stable. Participants credited non-traditional supports and high educational attainment with their success in adulthood. Additionally, participants discussed the ways in which the absence of formal support, the stigma of foster care, and the tumultuous relationships with family influenced their journey well into middle adulthood. There are limitations to the study, mainly the high level of education for this sample as well as the over representation of White's and females. Clear implications exist for social work education, practice, and child welfare policy. Namely the contribution to middle adulthood literature, promotion of de-stigmatizing practice, and the shifting of the narrative embedded in policy from one of independence to one of inter-dependence.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Jessica Lynn Yang


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

174 p.


Social Work

Included in

Social Work Commons