Dumont A, Lanctôt N, Paquette G. (2022). “I had a shitty past; I want a great future.” Hopes and fears of vulnerable adolescent girls aging out of care. Children and Youth Services Review, 106374.
Past studies of adolescent girls aging out of care have shown that being able to imagine themselves in a positive future may make them more resilient now and motivate them to take steps to achieve their goals. In the present study, to learn more about how such girls picture their futures, we conducted interviews and analyses guided by possible-selves theory. Our sample consisted of 15 girls aged 16–18 who were living in foster families or in residential-care settings. We conducted semi-structured interviews with these girls, using an adaptation of the Possible Selves Mapping Interview (Sheppard et Marshall, 1999). Many of the hopes that these girls expressed in their interviews were similar to those of most girls their age, but some of these hopes were influenced by adverse experiences in the girls’ pasts and darkened by their fears for the future. Three of the participants stood out for talking much more about their hopes than about their fears. The differences that we observed in these girls’ possible selves may help to improve programs supporting vulnerable young women after they leave care. To be helpful, these programs not only must be based on what the girls themselves want to achieve, but also must help them to develop detailed action plans and provide them with positive role models, sources of motivation and the belief that if they experience failures, they will always get another chance.