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Formal and Informal Support among Mothers Aging out of Foster Care and Maternity Group Homes: Who Steps in When Mothers Age Out?

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Young mothers in foster care and their children face educational, financial, and social challenges. Maternity group homes (MGHs) offer one intervention to mitigate poor outcomes. Yet, information about the experiences of mothers transitioning from MGHs is limited. Using Kool’s Theory of Adolescent Identity Development, this study examines mothers’ transitions out of MGHs and the role of formal and informal support in helping meet their family’s needs. Mothers with experience living in an MGH (n = 25) participated in telephone interviews describing their experiences in MGHs and transitions to independence. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis to understand mothers’ use of formal and informal supports after MGH exit. Analysis revealed that although mothers perceived “doing it alone,” they relied on informal and formal supports. This paradox makes sense in the context of mothers’ lives. Complicated, unpredictable, and friction-laden relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances constitute mothers’ informal supports. Although mothers felt they could count on family, they described periods of homelessness, family violence, and hopelessness. Similarly, formal relationships with child welfare professionals varied and often dissipated without warning. Mothers held mixed views on government assistance although these resources consistently provided critical means for survival. Implications: Consistent with Kool’s theory, study findings suggest mothers lacked supportive relationships and critical resources that shaped identity development. Implications for assisting mothers transitioning include supporting mothers through public assistance benefits before and after MGH exit; universal basic income as they gain independence, and guidance in establishing healthy relationships.

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We would like to acknowledge the time and effort of the mothers who chose to share their experiences with the research team, thank you. We would also like to thank the Florida Institute of Child Welfare who generously funded this project.

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Correspondence to Esaa Mohammad Sabti Samarah.

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Data collection and analysis were conducted with funding from the Florida Institute for Child Welfare. There are no known conflicts of interest to disclose. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Esaa Mohammad S. Samarah, Florida State University College of Social Work, 296 Champions Way, Tallahassee, FL 32304, United States. Email:

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Sabti Samarah, E., Radey, M. & Boel-Studt, S. Formal and Informal Support among Mothers Aging out of Foster Care and Maternity Group Homes: Who Steps in When Mothers Age Out?. Child Adolesc Soc Work J (2024).

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