Dawn Elizabeth Montgomery is a 2011 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara.


Emancipated foster youth, Foster children, Foster kids, Advocacy, Resources, Belonging, Foster Parents, Succeed, Success, Independence, Spirituality, Resilience, Foster Care Alumni, Life Skills, Strengths, Warriors, Qualitative Research

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The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine the factors which helped these foster care alumni to persevere and to succeed. The intent was to provide a framework for equipping youth in foster care more effectively by building on their strengths and the resources available in foster care. The study’s method incorporated the interviewing of ten ethnically diverse individuals who had experienced the foster care system. Based on their insights and the themes which emerged, the WARRIORS Model was created. This acronym represents the key themes derived from the interviews: Wounded, Advocacy, Reality of Belonging, Resources, Inspired to Succeed, Obtain Life Skills, Resilience and Spirituality. A Wounded past was the reality of every participant yet many found purpose and meaning in their Advocacy roles. The Reality of Belonging was vital in each of their lives in addition to accessing Resources for post-high school educational and housing options, both implicating the significance of foster parent involvement. All were Inspired to Succeed both personally and educationally and were receptive to Obtain the Life Skills necessary for their future independence and success. They demonstrated such hopeful countenance and profound Resilience, in addition to accessing and benefitting from their chosen avenues of Spirituality. Finally, while navigating through both the negative and positive aspects of their lives, these youth have revealed the strength of the human spirit which has given them every right to be identified as WARRIORS. The WARRIORS Model can be utilized by clinicians and professionals involved in the systems addressing the needs of youth in foster care and training foster parents. Greater opportunities are needed for youth in foster care to advocate for themselves and others with the hope of gaining a sense of worth as their opinions are valued by the adults claiming to represent them. Finally, further research is needed concerning the spiritual development of youth in foster care and ways in which we can assist in this promising aspect of cultivating resilience as evidenced in this study and other established research. The electronic version of this dissertation can be found at the OhioLink ETD Center,