Objectives: We estimated the incidence of homelessness during the transition to adulthood and identified the risk and protective factors that predict homelessness during this transition.
Methods: Using data from the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth, a longitudinal study of youths aging out of foster care in 3 Midwestern states, and a bounds approach, we estimated the cumulative percentage of youths who become homeless during the transition to adulthood. We also estimated a discrete time hazard model that predicted first reported episode of homelessness.
Results: Youths aging out of foster care are at high risk for becoming homeless during the transition to adulthood. Between 31% and 46% of our study participants had been homeless at least once by age 26 years. Running away while in foster care, greater placement instability, being male, having a history of physical abuse, engaging in more delinquent behaviors, and having symptoms of a mental health disorder were associated with an increase in the relative risk of becoming homeless.
Conclusions: Policy and practice changes are needed to reduce the risk that youths in foster care will become homeless after aging out.