The literature and research sections above adequately demonstrate how challenging it can be for young people in foster care to transition into adulthood and independence and why certain assessment tactics will likely best capture objective and subjective reviews of the experience. This methodology section reiterates the specific study elements that will be used to look directly at the experience that the targeted young people (those who left within the last two years) had as they moved through their transitional stages toward aging out of the foster care system.
To reiterate, the study has three focal areas. The first two offer a degree of quantitative assessment as well as qualitative sections. The latter is mostly qualitative in that it seeks to elicit the recollections of the young people in regards to their experiences and where they see their future going. Together, the results will provide a multidimensional view of what prepares young people for aging out of the foster care system and moving into adult readiness for life, something that most researchers believe best reflects the experience of these young people (Gardner, 2008).
The three components of the study focus on:
The time spent in the system, number of changes of residence during their final years in the system, the types of support they received (counseling, work training, etc.), all in relation to their age and related demographics.
The types of hands-on, preparatory skills they developed or were exposed to with a specific look at financial knowledge and awareness (e.g., vocational assistance or experience).
Their perspective for the future based on what they recall in looking back on what they learned and what they expect to do in the future (e.g., either through continued education, on-the-job training, etc.).
Taken together, the study will be using a model multiple person case study format. As indicated previously, Baxter (2008) verifies that this format has many ways for affirming the reliability and validity of the information that is obtained. First, it helps to demonstrate the specific contextual experience from where the information arises; and second, it helps to ensure a sense of common data gathering to improve the confidence that each person's response can be compared with what others say -- something that SEDI (2008) likewise affirms in regard to case studies about financial information knowledge and retention.
The variables to be measured will be collected from the official records of the young people and from survey instruments and written, open-ended questionnaires. As noted above, each of the three elements has different intentions. In regard to their experience in the foster care network, system data will be collected. The primary information in this section will be the core demographics of them as individuals (age, race, length of time in the system, etc.) as well as the experiences with foster family and support (how many families, length of time there, types of counseling and assistance received, etc.). This data will be gathered, with permission, from the young people's official files. In addition, each young person will be interviewed. These sessions will elicit verification of what is remembered and provide a baseline for developing a set of common variables in regard to their experience in the system.
In regards to the financial and life-skills assessment, other information will be pulled from the file and checked against the recollections of the young people. A review will be done in regards to the types of vocational skills training opportunities and actual work experience the young people had across their involvement. Following this, the Likert-scale questions (10-15) in regards to banking, use of credit, bill paying and such will be used to demonstrate the baseline for financial knowledge that the young people have. In using online resources for the general public, it will be possible to determine whether the targeted group is on par with what is thought to be needed for young people in general.
And the third element will be composed of their responses to the two open-ended, in-depth questions about how they think their experiences have impacted them at the point of inquiry and into the future. The questions will seek to elicit backwards and forward looking recollections.
TARGET POPULATION AND SAMPLE
The targeted population will include a cross-representative sample of approximately 30 young people who have been identified by local foster care authorities as having left (either of their own accord or through aging out) of the system within the last two years. All subjects will be between the ages of 16 and 19. Efforts will be undertaken to ensure that the sample includes representative numbers of young men and women and a balance of persons of ethnicities common to the local program.
The data will be collected across a six-month period. The initial two months will involve reviewing and assessing the targeted files and preparing the questionnaires and survey forms. Each young person will be invited, with permission, to a comfortable setting where privacy is ensured. The questions will be made available in a format that is readily usable on a laptop and in paper form. The young people will be able to choose but will be encouraged to answer the Likert-scale questions online to facilitate data usage. The written questions will be provided in both formats so the subject can either write or type his or her answers.
The information that is collected from files and the subject's experience will be coded to ensure comparability across the cases. Common forms of data, such as age, race, years of involvement, etc. will be readily assessed. The Likert and other survey data will be entered into the online system using a readily available format, such as is used in Survey Monkey. This will allow for frequency and pattern identification and ensure that the data is consistent. Open-ended questions will be coded in accordance with content analysis techniques to identify common terms and understandings. This methodology helps to identify internal and external factors that may have influenced an individual's answer and will allow for the researcher to better present the findings.
RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY
In order to ensure that the information that is being collected accurately reflects the researcher's intention, all questions will be tested on randomly selected audiences. They will be made aware of the purpose of the study and asked to answer the questions objectives as if they were young people in the situation being explored. The questions will also be reviewed by academic advisors and by a selected representation of foster care professionals who will be given the chance to comment on whether they believe the questions reflect the experience of others who have sought to undertake investigations of this sort (Baxter, 2008; SEDI, 2008).
Our review of the literature provided an understanding of how important studies of the nature of individual experiences can be in a field like foster care transition. Keller, Cusick & Courtney (2007), for example, found that person-oriented research can find "normative markers" in regards to the impact of these situations on family, work and school outcomes. Kushell et al. (2007) similarly found that multidimensional indicators had to be looked at to develop a holistic instrument for understanding everything from why youth run away to how they end up being good parents and workers. The current finding will further isolate some of the results by way of judging the impact of the experience in regard to the growing field of financial literacy and youth employment achievement.
Case studies of any kind have limitations (SEDI, 2008). Questions are designed to be objective but still reflect the biases of the developers and are subject to the subjective qualities of the targeted people. A small sample size relative to the full population of foster care youth also limits what conclusions can…