• Community-level and Individual-level Predictors of Variation in Rates of Homelessness among Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care

      Sneddon, Dori; Bright, Charlotte Lyn (2019)
      Youth who age out of foster care are a known high-risk subgroup for homelessness. Studies estimate between 19% and 36% of youth experience homelessness shortly after emancipation. This study examined homelessness among youth transitioning out of foster care by incorporating individual-level and county-level influences to better understand the risk of homelessness among this population. Multilevel models and generalized estimating equation models were constructed to include both individual- and county-level variables. Data were obtained from multiple national datasets: the 2011-2015 National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD), 2011 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), University of Wisconsin’s County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Data and the 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural-Urban Continuum Code data file. The analytic sample included 3,968 youth who responded to the NYTD Wave 1 (age 17), Wave 2 (age 19) and Wave 3 (age 21) survey. Of the sample, 35.3% experienced homelessness between 17 – 21 years old. Findings indicated statistically significant variation between counties in the proportion of youth who become homeless. Multiple individual-level factors were found to predict homelessness between ages 17 – 21. Prior homelessness, substance use history, and incarceration had a positive relationship with risk of homelessness. Connection with a caring adult, enrollment in school, and employment were inversely related to risk of homelessness. Specific to foster care experience, number of placements and age of entry had a positive relationship with risk of homelessness. Being in foster care at age 19 and at age 21 were related to a reduced risk of homelessness. Not as hypothesized, receipt of independent living services had a positive relationship with homelessness. None of the county-level indicators had a statistically significant relationship to the homelessness outcome. Policy and practice implications for child welfare include extending foster care, capturing housing histories and prioritizing housing plans for youth, and targeting intensive services to youth at the highest risk of homelessness. Future research to further examine socioeconomic community- and state-level predictors of homelessness among this population inform homelessness prevention and housing strategies for youth aging out of foster care. Suggested areas for improvement in NYTD data are also discussed.
    • Exploring How Teen Mothers in Foster Care Experience Motherhood: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

      Aparicio, Elizabeth; Pecukonis, Edward Vincent (2014)
      Teen pregnancy in foster care is an issue receiving increasing attention due to high pregnancy rates. Previous literature on both teen motherhood and foster youth is focused on negative outcomes, risk factors, and pathology. Despite this emphasis, a small, but growing body of literature on the experience of motherhood of teen mothers in foster care reflects a perspective that is not simply negative - a lived reality that is characterized by both risk and opportunity. The purpose of the current qualitative study was to explore the meaning and experience of motherhood for teen mothers in foster care. The study involved three in-depth interviews with 6 young women who had become mothers while in care. It employed interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA; Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009) to elicit, analyze, and re-present a rich account of this experience. Findings suggest the lived experience of motherhood for these young women is an intricate reality that brings past, present, and hoped-for future experiences into seamless unison in the midst of the intensely meaningful experience of becoming a mother. Participants discussed their interpretation of motherhood as offering a sense of hope for new beginnings and doing things differently than what had happened in their own families, yet simultaneously as a time of feeling plagued by the lingering effects of darkness and despair in their childhood and adolescence due to factors such as substance abuse, abuse and neglect, poverty, and the breakdown of family ties. The findings suggest that teen mothers in foster care experience becoming mothers as offering opportunities to change their identities from that of "foster child" to "mother", gain motivation and purpose, receive unconditional love, and work through their views on their own parents in the context of a new role. Implications include the need for comprehensive sexual health, substance abuse, and behavioral health services at all levels for child welfare-involved families and youth that include a significant focus on trauma, grief, loss, and attachment issues; better parenting support for teen mothers in foster care; and meaningful discussions about the unintended effects of child welfare intervention on communities related to teen pregnancy and motherhood.
    • Independent Living Programs and Changes in Resilience of Transition-Age Foster Care Youth

      Lee, Sang Jung; Harrington, Donna (2016)
      The transition to living independently is a challenge for youth who have been living in foster care. Independent Living Programs (ILPs) are designed to help transition-age foster care youth. However, limited rigorous examinations have been done. Therefore, this study aims to examine the relationship between Independent Living Programs and resilience among transition-age foster care youth. The social ecology of resilience was used to guide the secondary analysis of a sample of 917 transition-age foster youth from three ILPs of the Multi-Site Evaluation of Foster Youth Programs (Chafee Independent Living Evaluation Project, 2001-2010). Multilevel analyses were used to examine the impact of each ILP on resilience and the role of ILP participation on resilience in the social environmental contexts of transition-age foster care youth. The three ILPs examined in this study did not outperform services as usual. In addition, participation in the three ILPs did not significantly predict changes in resilience after controlling for individual and social environmental factors. However, gender and externalizing behavior problems at the individual level significantly predicted change in resilience. Compared to male youth, female youth presented greater positive change in resilience. When youth had lower levels of behavior problems at baseline, they were more likely to improve on resilience. Social support was the only significant predictor of change in resilience at the micro-system level; when youth had higher levels of social support at baseline, they were more likely to improve on resilience. At the meso/exo-system level, foster parent support, community participation, and child welfare status were found to be significant predictors of resilience change over time. Youth with higher levels of foster parent support were more likely to improve on resilience. Youth who participated in a community organization at baseline were more likely to increase resilience over two years. Youth in the child welfare system demonstrated higher levels of resilience than youth discharged from the system. The findings of this study underscore the role of child welfare social workers, foster parents, and the child welfare system in preparing youth for independent living.