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Priorities for a Foster Youth App

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

Literature Review by Will Remigio


Article Title: Conceptualizing a Mobile App for Foster Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: A Mixed-Method Approach. J. Jay Miller, Ming-Yuan Chih & Earl Washington (2016) Conceptualizing a Mobile App for Foster Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: A Mixed-Method Approach, Journal of Technology in Human Services, 34:2, 145-170.

Research Purpose/Question(s)

The purpose of this study was examine foster care youth’s considerations when developing a mobile app that helps foster youth transition into adulthood. Additionally, the study sought to understand differences in mobile app preferences between foster care youth and foster care youth alumni.

Sample/ Audience

Twenty three participants (11 foster young people; 12 foster care alumni). Mode age of participants was 18 years old and developmentally age appropriate. Sixty six percent of participants were female. The sample’s racial composition was 52.4% White, 38.1% Black, and 4.8% Latinx. Participants spent an average of 6.93 years in foster care. All participants owned a smartphone (Android 57%, iPhone 33.3%, Windows 9.5%).


The assessment of qualitative data took part in 3 phases. Concept mapping was the method used to conceptualize participant responses during the initial phase. Participants indicated important features to be included in the application aimed to help transitioning foster youth. Reasons for selecting concept mapping involve the ability to clearly visualize and prioritize qualitative data. In the following phase, researchers asked participants to title items listed in the concept map in index cards and observed how they sorted the items under cluster headings to better conceptualize relationships between items and cluster titles. Participants then were asked to prioritize (rate) clusters. The final stage involved researchers analyzing and assigning interpretation to the data in conjunction with participants.


Participants (both foster youth and foster alumni) conceptualized seven clusters of items considered most important to integrate to a mobile app aimed to help youth successfully transition out of foster care. The priorities for each cluster were nearly the same for both foster youth and alumni who transitioned out. Cluster titles were (ranked by priority): Accessibility, Peer Connections, App Layout, Notifications, Connection to Resources, Tools, and Mentorship Guidance. Table 1 includes a ranking list of values under each cluster. Moreover, participants advocated for an additional platform accessible through a computer website for youth without cell phones.

Priorities for foster youth app
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a. Considerations for when developing policies

Youth are very aware that their phone data is used to track their activity. Issues with information being shared without their permission has led to discontinuation of app usage. If an app is to be developed for vulnerable youth, a clear understanding of how their information will be made private or shared to third parties must be outlined in common language so that the youth can give or deny consent of the information sharing. Clarify how the data will be used by developers I order to build trust.

b. Considerations in future research

Future research is needed to study differences in impact between mobile apps vs. web-based resources. Example research questions could be: Do youth who use the mobile app develop a stronger network? (e.g., size of network, strength of network) compared to those who use websites and other platforms (facebook, Instagram, or human services, foster program)

Strengths of Study

The study conducted several levels of analysis (concept mapping, brainstorming, statement structuring, multidimensional scaling, and hierarchical cluster analysis, participant verification) to better understand what foster youth and alumni consider important in developing a mobile app.

Limitations of Study

The research was comprehensive, and well executed. However, a follow up research with a larger sample size would further clarify the App's efficacy and utilization within the larger foster youth population.


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