Introduction: Compared to their peers, youth who leave the foster care system without permanency experience greater risks for adverse young adult outcomes, including homelessness, incarceration, substance abuse, and early child birth. Extant literature focuses on individual-level factors related to adversity. In this study, we estimated the impact of state and individual-level risk and protective factors on adverse 19-year-old outcomes among a cohort of U.S. transition age youth.
Methods: We used multilevel modeling to analyze prospective, longitudinal data from two waves of the National Youth in Transitions Database (N = 7449). These data were linked to the Adoption and Foster Care Reporting System, the Administration for Children and Families budget expenditures, and the American Community Survey for the period from 2011 to 2013.
Results: Approximately 30% of the variation in each of the 19-year-old outcomes could be attributed to state-level effects. Residence in a state that spent above average of CFCIP budget on housing supports reduced the risk of homelessness and incarceration. Living in a state with a higher proportion of housing-burdened low-income renters significantly increased the risk of substance abuse and child birth. Individual-level risks were significant: racial/ethnic minority, male gender, past risk history, placement instability, child behavioral problems, residence in group home or runaway. Remaining in foster care at age 19 reduced the odds of homelessness, incarceration, and substance abuse.
Conclusion: Macro factors, including financial support for transition-age youth, and broader housing market characteristics, have a bearing on young adult outcomes, and raise policy questions across social and human service sectors.
Keywords: Foster care; Homelessness; Incarceration; Pregnancy; Substance abuse; Transition-age youth.
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