Promoting well-being through relationship building: The role of smartphone technology in foster care

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Mindful of the tremendous risk factors that foster youths encounter, a federal demonstration project sought to increase their protective factors and to mitigate their adverse experiences. The ability to form and maintain healthy relationships is a key protective factor as it helps youths navigate life’s challenges, especially those challenges that result from unresolved loss and grief as a result of being in care. The study was guided by a relational competence framework. The youths were issued smartphones, and their social service providers were given a Web-based application designed to increase communication between the foster youths, their providers, and their mentors. Findings reveal several favorable outcomes associated with the use of the smartphones but also several unintended negative consequences. Recommendations for balancing youths’, caregivers’ and providers’ needs, positions, and rights are discussed. Likewise, the authors discuss the study’s implications for program development that utilizes smartphone technology to increase youths’ ability to experience healthy relationships.

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