April 26, 2022
By Sarah Wasch, MSW and Johanna Greeson, PhD; Field Center Program Manager and Managing Faculty Director
As the COVID pandemic enters its third year of impact, donors and foundation funders may face uncertainty about how to ensure a more just recovery from COVID-19. The 2022 High Impact Giving Guide from the Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP) is designed to do just that – help grantmakers turn good intentions into high social impact. Following the methodology of prior work, the expertise of individuals with lived experience dealing with a particular circumstance is recognized as critical to informing a philanthropic strategy. Building on the concept of centering the insights, data and experiences of individuals who will become the beneficiaries of future programming, CHIP and the Field Center have partnered to learn about the mental health needs of older youth with foster care experience during the pandemic.
The resulting qualitative study involved 26 semi-structured interviews of young adults currently in or aged out of foster care. Four domains emerged as critical to their overall well-being: Interpersonal Relationships, Impact of the Pandemic, Managing Mental Health, and Systemic Interactions.
Although the impacts of the pandemic are felt across issues and in every population around the globe, the CHIP team examined key areas in which existing disparities, particularly across racial, economic, and gender lines, grew. The voices and experiences of the young adults with foster care experience that the Field Center team spoke with elevate and reinforce the importance of four key strategies that are critical to a just recovery for youth:
“When I’m having a bad day or mental health problems, I continuously go back to my favorite shows or my favorite book.” — 19-year-old in foster care
“Eventually, they found me a therapist. I had virtual therapy sessions and I started getting back to my normal self and feeling a little more hopeful.” — 19-year-old aged out of foster care
“I have this support group, like advocates. I believe that without their help I would’ve been struggling more.” — 22-year-old aged out of foster care
“Two of the associate directors [on campus] were really just rock-steady adults, and particularly one of them has just been the most steady, constant presence in my life…she alone has made such a difference.” — 23-year-old aged out of foster care
“I lost my job so that meant that I had to be home 24/7 and with that, I couldn’t pay my rent or some of my bills so that made me quite depressed.” — 22-year-old aged out of foster care
“I would say to provide more shelters for youth. It’s quite frustrating that there’s not a lot of foster homes for teens and young adults so they deal with homelessness and that’s a lot of stress. You shouldn’t have to be stressing your living situation at that age. So provide more shelter.” — 20-year-old aged out of foster care
“With me being in foster care, I didn’t have a set parent, my parent was the state. I felt like it would’ve been a lot better had the state taught me a lot more about financial decisions, savings, and different things like that so maybe I wouldn’t have been put in the position that I was in when COVID did happen.” — 22-year-old aged out of foster care
“I now have a job and a reason to get out of bed every day.” — 19-year-old in foster care
The Field Center team recognizes the strength and bravery of the 26 young people who took the time to share their insights with us. We hope that their experiences help generate services and interventions for others who may follow in their footsteps. We also hope that the opportunity to contribute to this project provided them with some solace about being heard and knowing that innovators are listening.
“I just appreciate the opportunity to be able to share my story. This is the first time that I actually got to speak on how I felt as a student, as a person. You know, going through a mental health crisis but still having to work to make ends meet.” 23-year-old aged out of foster care
Editors’ Note: This blog first appeared on the Center for High Impact Philanthropy’s website in April 2022. View the post in its original format here.< Return to Blog