Representations of homelessness, home environments, and authority in the context of runaway behaviors reported by foster care youth residing in an emergency shelter


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Between 31 and 46% of youth with histories of foster care placement were homeless at least once. Studies of the incidence of runaway behavior have identified a host of risk factors associated with running away from foster care placement, but less is known about the internalized processes of these individuals at risk for running away or the contextual experience surrounding it. This study is designed to investigate the representations made by individuals who have engaged in running away to uncover and explore thematic patterns. Accordingly, a secondary analysis was performed on data from four group interviews (n = 15) collected from youth under the care of one child protective services (CPS) agency-operated emergency shelter setting, using thematic content analysis by two independent reviewers. Codes were networked and themes that emerged were discussed through a framework of power dynamics. Themes around the participants’ perceptions of homelessness, lack of control, and their resistance to authority were all identified as contributory to the theme of running away. The act of running away is, therefore, framed as a threshold event representing a multifaceted phenomenon combining perceptions of self-identity, conflict, and power in the home.

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