From foster care to resilience: saving lives by changing the foster care model

Naketa Ross, ResilientMe

"Forty percent of youth who have been in foster care will experience homelessness within 18 months of leaving care."

- Naketa Ross, KER fellow 2020


Through no fault of their own, a vast majority of children aging out of the foster care system do so without being properly prepared for the challenges ahead of them. They are forced to face the harsh realities of adult life without resilience training, a support system, or a safety net in place. As a result, this group has higher rates of homelessness and incarceration than their peers.

Research question

How do we decrease the rate of homelessness and incarceration in young adults who have experienced foster care?

Methods and findings

During her fellowship, Ross sought to strengthen resilience in the foster care system. She began with wanting to extend the foster care age from 21 to 25 but quickly learned that was not a realistic plan. Why did this plan sound so challenging? Besides having a tight budget, Arizona's current system lacks a robust data-set once youth age out of the system. Therefore, Ross focused on the root of this challenge and collected data from several sources, including the Governor’s semi-annual report.

She found that there is limited data collection on the existing foster care model and youth in Arizona, especially related to trauma and homelessness rates. This is the same problem for incarceration rates as well. Ross also found that states across the nation follow the same foster care system model despite evidence of ineffectiveness. No states currently utilize the opt-out model; Arizona could be the first state to make a more significant impact on these youth's lives. Extending the safety net of housing and financial resources for youth decreases the immediate stress of life right after high school. No states have mandated trauma or resilience training despite evidence that this is vital for children's success. Providing youth with resilience skills such as ResilientMe increases their coping skills vital for successful adult life.


  • ​​​​​​Youth in foster care

  • Ending youth homelessness workgroup

  • Jewish Family Center Services staff

  • Group home staff

  • Amy Love

  • Beth Broeker


By providing data to Arizona State legislators, Ross hopes to encourage a change in the current foster care model. This would provide youth with support for a longer period of time and a stronger launching pad into adult life, improving the lives of hundreds of young adults in the state of Arizona.


Ross has secured meetings with politicians to share the findings of the research and develop a bill.  She has disseminated the findings of the project on social media and will be uploading YouTube videos around the concept of resilience and foster care.  As a result of the project, Ross was featured in an an Arizona Republic article, and she did an Op-ed piece in the Arizona Republic.

Naketa Ross

Portrait of Naketa Ross

Founder & Executive Director

Community Fellow, 2020

Naketa Ross is the Founder and Executive Director of ResilientMe. ResilientMe is Arizona's only trauma-informed resilience organization, offering transformative programming for youth in foster care to overcome trauma and become triumphant adults. Their unique curriculum uses scientifically sound methods to help youth build self-worth and self-esteem, paving the way for a successful transition into adult life.