Barriers to Accessing Health Care in Hawaii's Foster Youth

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foster youth
medical disparities
trauma informed care
Child Welfare Services
mental health
passive and active maltreatment
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Foster youth (FY) face multiple barriers to accessing basic medical care and many are not given access to adequate mental health treatment after enduring the trauma of separation from their families. This thesis elevates FY's voices, using their own narratives to examine the issues they face in receiving adequate medical care and mental health resources. The study includes semi-structured interviews to query the local understanding of FY's health disparities. Deductive coding was used to search and highlight the sections of the interviews that touched on reoccurring themes. Several themes centered on the significant need for improved FY access to resources. The most common theme was that mental health was never addressed and that FY were not listened to or checked in on. Additionally, there was a repeated sentiment of bitter feelings and judgments. Further, many FY expressed a desire not to allow stigma or shame to shape their identities. The FY all expressed the desire to be heard, which related to their accounts of negligence from their caseworkers. There is an immense need for trauma-informed care and essential phycological services for every child and parent. This training should be extended to state workers, foster parents, therapists, and doctors in order to reduce mental health disparities faced by FY. Further, there is a need for access to high-quality health care and mental health services with trauma-based care available to every child who enters state care.

Dr. Morgan Hoke, Dr. Katherine Moore
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