Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Aging out of foster care during a recession

The National Center for Family Homelessness just released a report indicating that 1 in 50 children is homeless in the United States every year.

It's also important to understand the risk of homelessness for young people aging out of foster care, and the need to invest in improving their chances of success.

1.) In 2008, the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition contracted with Philadelphia Safe and Sound to study the needs and experiences of youth in Philadelphia who had become homeless after aging-out of the child welfare system.

Aged-Out and Homeless in Philadelphia:
Researchers found that along the continuum of care that these youth received, there were service providers, administrative and legislative policies, families, and "support networks" that were inconsistent, contradictory, negligent, and impeding on youth success.

Quote from study: "In any given year, there are approximately 500,000 children in foster care throughout the United States. Of these, about 20,000 age out each year and are at risk for a variety of problems, including homelessness, un-/under-employment, criminal activity, and a lack of education."

2.) The Congressional Research Service released a 2007 report on Runaway and Homeless Youth. By the close of fiscal year 2005, close to 11,000 foster youth ran away from their placements and 24,000 young people "aged out" of foster care.

3.) A 2005 Survey of Homeless Youth in Minnesota conducted by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation revealed that 7 out of 10 of these young people spent time as children in a foster home, group home, or other residential facility.

4.) In 2008, Voices from the Street: A Survey of Homeless Youth by Their Peers was facilitated by the California Research Bureau. Homeless and formerly homeless youth conducted interviews of their currently and formerly homeless peers across the state, inviting them to share their experiences, the services they need, and changes they would like to see happen in policy or law.

Quote from study: “Those young people in our study for whom foster care was a trajectory into homelessness often described an instability and ‘emotional homelessness’ that began long before they literally had no roof over their heads.”

5.) Web of Failure: The Relationship Between Foster Care & Homelessness
In 1995, the National Alliance to End Homelessness conducted national research to examine the over-representation in the homeless population of people with a foster care history.

Principle findings of this study:
- There is an over-representation of people with a foster care history in the homeless population.

- Homeless people with a foster care history are more likely than other people to have their own children in foster care.

- Very frequently, people who are homeless had multiple placements as children: some were in foster care, but others were "unofficial" placements in the homes of family or friends.

- Those people with a foster care history tend to become homeless at an earlier age than those who do not have a foster care history.

- Childhood placement in foster care can correlate with a substantial increase in the length of a person's homeless experience.

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