Relational Permanence and Psychological well-being among African American Adolescents in Foster Care

The field of child welfare has historically focused on physical safety and legal permanency with little emphasis on child well-being or the importance of social relationships in positive youth development. We add to the literature regarding child well-being among African American adolescents in care-a group that is overrepresented within the foster care system. Specific attention is given to relational permanence-the concept of continuous supportive relationships marked by mutual trust and respect. Descriptive statistics were used to assess the prevalence of relational permanence and the change of relational permanence over time. Regression analyses were used to explain the variation associated with relational permanence and to investigate whether relational permanence predicts psychological well-being. The findings indicate that relational permanence varies at the start of foster care for African American adolescents. Yet, relational permanence did not significantly change over time. Maltreatment type had the largest influence on predicting the attainment of relational permanence over time (p < 0.05). Relational permanence was positively correlated with higher psychological well-being (p < 0.05). An increase in relational permanence over time also significantly predicted higher psychological well-being over time (p < 0.05). These findings indicate that social support from a variety of different sources aid youth in staying mentally healthy despite major disruptions in support from biological parents. These findings support the importance of developing a wide variety of social support networks to improve positive developmental outcomes among African American adolescents in foster care.