Earlier this month we discussed social media and adopted and foster youth. While social media is often discussed as a concern regarding the ways in which youth use it, what isn't always as talked about is how it is part of a youth's overall social capital and why social capital is an important area that young people, particularly those in care, need help with.
The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative recently released their Issue Brief #2 on Social Capital: Building Quality Networks for Young People in Foster Care and it is available at this link.
Social capital is very important for youth in foster care, who typically lose connections with important friends, family and other people through the transitory nature of being in foster care. According to the issue brief, social capital is made up of a person's reciprocal and mutual social relationships.
Social capital has several dimensions, including the number of relationships, the quality of those relationships and the resources that are available as a result of these relationships. Think of the saying often used about getting a job - "it's who you know."
For youth who do not experience foster care, the modeling of social relationships and the ability to see how social networking happens in different contexts is demonstrated in family and in the community. For youth in care who experience multiple transitions, it may be more difficult to see examples of long-term, caring, reciprocal, trusting relationships extended over time. In fact, our system once discouraged foster care adoption or allowing foster parents to get too attached to the youth in their care.
This issue brief outlines a few practical ways to help foster social capital experiences for foster youth, including helping to make school stability a priority, supporting sibling relationships, engaging with birth family as much as safely possible, maintaining involvement with the child's community and neighborhood and supporting the development of positive peer relationships.