Document Type


Publication Date



Trauma is a key player in the lives of young people within the child welfare system. Adverse childhood experiences define the course of life for many foster youths prior to entering the system, and for many, exemplify their time during and after foster care. The results of this trauma are often overwhelming and far-reaching, as traumatic behaviors often take the form of distrust and dysregulation. Moreover, trauma can disrupt one’s sense of safety and contribute to feelings of disempowerment. For many, it is rare that our lives are representative of a complete lack of opportunity for self-efficacy and empowerment; however, this phenomenon showcases the lived experience for most foster youth.

Within the child welfare system, the sheer number of opportunities for youth to make decisions regarding their care is minimal. When this feeling of powerlessness is compounded with a lack of transparency and previous traumatic experiences, it often results in a child being retraumatized and an exacerbation of known trauma-related behaviors which can lead to disruptions in placement and adversely impact the social safety net. This paper examines the literature related to the absence of youth empowerment and choice within the child welfare system. The creation and implementation of a cellular application that provides education curriculum and trauma-informed resources is presented to increase foster youths’ opportunity for self-determination, positive coping, and strength-based skills, all while promoting collaboration amongst secondary clients.


A poster based on this paper was presented by the author at Lipscomb's 2024 Student Scholar Symposium and is attached as a supplemental file.

Friel_Hanah SSS Capstone Poster.pdf (283 kB)
Poster presented at Student Scholar Symposium