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Foster Care Alumni’s Perceptions of Mental Health Services Received While in Foster Care
Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal  (IF1.862),  Pub Date : 2021-10-28, DOI: 10.1007/s10560-021-00803-7
Villagrana, Margarita

Studies have shown that once youth emancipate from foster care, there is a dramatic drop (60%) in the utilization of services. Reasons for mental health service disruption are unclear, but studies in the general population have consistently found that a person’s perception, knowledge, and attitudes toward mental health services are significant in the utilization of services. This qualitative study sought to examine the perceptions formed by former foster youth about the mental health services received while in foster care, and whether these perceptions might have an impact on the utilization of mental health services post foster care. Thirteen former foster youth with a mental health treatment history while in foster care were interviewed. Qualitative content analysis with a deductive approach was used to analyze the data. Results show that lack of self-determination, no explanation given for referral to mental health services, and mandated mental health services, increased the negative perceptions youth formed about services. Perception of helpfulness of services also impacted the discontinuation of services post foster care. Findings from this study suggest that self-determination in the referral to services and treatment can significantly impact a youth’s perception of the services received and subsequent use of these services post foster care. Similarly, a hesitation to engage in mental health services was due to an inconsistency in the receipt of services due to placement instability, which lead to negative perceptions of services.