Homelessness during the transition from foster care to adulthood

Am J Public Health. 2013 Dec;103 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S318-23. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301455. Epub 2013 Oct 22.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homeless Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult