• June 2021
  • Vol. 22, No. 6

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Study Examines Factors That Allow Youth to Achieve Relational Permanency

Achieving legal permanency is one of the major goals of child welfare systems. However, not every child who has achieved legal permanency—reunification, adoption, or guardianship—has also achieved relational permanency, which is defined as a network of loving, lasting, and supportive relationships. An article in Child and Youth Services Review discusses a study that examines experiences that help youth achieve relational permanency.

The following research questions guided the study:

  • What is the quality of a child's relationship with his or her foster or adoptive family when they are living together?
  • How do children's experiences with their foster or adoptive family impact their transitions to adulthood?
  • What experiences contribute to relational permanency?
  • Does legal permanency contribute to relational permanency?

To answer these questions, researchers conducted interviews with 30 young adults ranging in age from 18 to 33 years who had experienced foster care. The participants' accounts of their relationships were measured by three qualities:

  • Sense of agency. Was the relationship empowering vs. disempowering?
  • Perception of support. Did participants perceive their caregiver's support as transformational or transactional?
  • Emotional connection. Was the youth guarded for fear of getting hurt, or was the relationship mutually meaningful and heartfelt?

The findings indicate that the foundation of relational permanency is built while youth are in care. A sense of agency, support, and emotional connection were all found to be factors that promote relational permanency, regardless of whether youth attained legal permanency.

For more information, including first-person accounts from the 30 interviewees, read "Agency, Genuine Support, and Emotional Connection: Experiences That Promote Relational Permanency in Foster Care."


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