Exploring Barriers and Cultural Assets as Predictors of Psycho-social
Adjustment among Youth Placed in Out-of-Home Care

Dissertation Summary

Every year, in the United States, thousands of children are placed in
out-of-home care including foster homes, group homes, and kinship homes.
In situations of abuse, neglect, and a variety of parental problems such
as abandonment, incarceration, and substance abuse, a child may be removed
from the home and placed in foster care. On September 30, 2011, the
Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS, 2012)
reported that over fifty percent of the 406,000 children in the United
States living in foster care placement were children of color. African
American children and youth in foster care face a unique challenge
academically and socially, especially after taking into consideration the
disparities that exist within the child welfare system. “However, of all
the difficulties foster care children experience, low academic achievement
may have the most serious consequences for their futures” ( Finkelstein,
Wamsley & Miranda 2002).

My study has two aims. First, to examine cultural socialization and
racial identity as protective factors in the relationship between racial
discrimination and academic outcomes and self-esteem. Second, to explore
the role of cultural socialization in the context of foster care
placement. To date, there are very few studies that examine modes of
cultural socialization and racial identity within foster care populations.
Further, there are presently no studies that examine race-related stress,
that is, racial discrimination and its effects on academic outcomes and
self-esteem among foster care youth. Therefore, as long as a significant
number of African American youth enter and remain in care, the importance
of examining psychosocial adjustment of foster care youth cannot be over


Nere Ayu is a doctoral student in Psychology and Preparing Future Faculty
fellow at Howard University. She holds a Master’s degree from Howard
University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Bowie State
University. As an undergraduate, she was certified as a crisis youth
interventionist, working with disadvantage youth and their families. Since
then, she has been involved with different child and family agencies, such
as the Behavior Therapy Center of Greater Washington, the Child and Family
Wellness Center in Virginia Beach, and residential group homes in Prince
George’s County, Maryland.

Her research interests focus on cultural socialization and its influence
on psychosocial and academic outcomes among minority children, especially
those placed in out of home care. Her research experience extends into the
development of instrument tools, creation of study designs, facilitation
of focus groups, data collection and analysis. Nere has been a teaching
assistant and instructor at Howard University. She has presented her work
at several professional conferences, including the National Black Graduate
Conference in Psychology.