Homelessness and aging out of foster care: A national comparison of child welfare-involved adolescents

The present study represents the first large-scale, prospective comparison to test whether aging out of foster care contributes to homelessness risk in emerging adulthood. A nationally representative sample of adolescents investigated by the child welfare system in 2008 to 2009 from the second cohort of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being Study (NSCAW II) reported experiences of housing problems at 18- and 36-month follow-ups. Latent class analyses identified subtypes of housing problems, including literal homelessness, housing instability, and stable housing. Regressions predicted subgroup membership based on aging out experiences, receipt of foster care services, and youth and county characteristics. Youth who reunified after out-of-home placement in adolescence exhibited the lowest probability of literal homelessness, while youth who aged out experienced similar rates of literal homelessness as youth investigated by child welfare but never placed out of home. No differences existed between groups on prevalence of unstable housing. Exposure to independent living services and extended foster care did not relate with homelessness prevention. Findings emphasize the developmental importance of families in promoting housing stability in the transition to adulthood, while questioning child welfare current focus on preparing foster youth to live.

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Children and Youth Services Review