Foster care case managers are responsible for the wellbeing of foster youth in the foster care system. Teens (ages 13-17) in foster care are most vulnerable to serious risks, such as sex trafficking. Such risks have been heightened by the advent of internet-based technologies that connect foster youth with unsafe others at unprecedented frequency and speed. This thesis examines how case managers tackle the challenge of online safety as it relates to adolescents in the foster care system in the United States. I conducted 32 semi-structured interviews with case managers who worked with foster teens (ages 13-17) within the past 5 years. After each interview, I transcribed the recording and conducted qualitative data analysis to identify emerging themes. I found that foster teens face numerous online risks with sexual-related risks (e.g., sex trafficking) and contact-related risks (e.g., unsolicited contact) being most prominent. However, case workers may not be prepared to address all of these challenges because of lack of online safety training and support from foster parents. Also, case workers are overburdened with many responsibilities that make online safety a secondary priority. This thesis identifies the gaps in which case managers are trained and highlights the need for more support to handle online safety challenges. Therefore, this thesis recommends that the foster care system must place a higher priority in establishing support groups and collaborative training among foster parents, case workers, and foster children to fully manage foster youth online safety.
Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Abaquita, Denielle Kirk L., "Understanding the Challenges Child Welfare Workers Encounter Related to Promoting the Online Safety of Foster Youth" (2020). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 830.