The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

The Relationship Between Family Ties, Social Support, and Economic Assets of Foster Youth Making the Transition to Adulthood

Friday, January 18, 2013: 3:30 PM
Marina 5 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Proscovia Nabunya, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Mark E. Courtney, PhD, Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: Foster youth making the transition to adulthood are faced with multiple challenges ranging from low educational attainment, underemployment, poor physical and mental health and economic constraints, among others (Courtney et al, 2007; 2010; Pecora et al, 2005). Unlike most young people who can rely on financial and emotional support from their parents, most foster youth do not have this opportunity. Social support and supportive relationships can be particularly important to foster youth to help enhance resilience and reduce the probability of poor outcomes. Despite the separation from their birth parents, a number of youth in foster care maintain close relationships with their birth family members (Courtney et al, 2007). This analysis therefore, focused on the relationship between family ties, social support and economic assets of foster youth making the transition to adulthood. The hypothesis is that youth who are closely related to their birth parents will report more social support and will be more likely to have economic assets after they exit the foster care system than those without such relationships.

Methods: This analysis used data from the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth, which has been following former foster youth from the states of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Baseline data was collected when the youth were17 and 18 years old and  follow-up interviews have been conducted through age 26. The interviews focused on the experiences of youth while in care and covered different domains such as education, employment, physical and mental health, social support, economic sufficiency, and independent living services. This analysis used baseline data (n=732) to measure social support and closeness to birth family members as well as wave 3 data (n=591), collected at age 21, to predict economic assets including receiving financial support from family members, owning a bank account, and owning a vehicle. Descriptive analysis of key variables such as closeness to birth parents and social support preceded logistic regression models used to analyze the relationship between these variables

Results: Preliminary results indicate that closeness to birth parents was an important predictor for economic asset accumulation such as owning a bank account and receiving financial support from birth family members.  Social support predicted owning a vehicle and having a bank account.

Implications: These results indicate that close ties with birth families may increase the probability of foster youth accumulating economic assets that could help them cope with economic challenges during the transition period. Therefore, efforts should be made to assist foster youth in managing relationships with their birth family members to help improve their economic well-being and reduce economic deficiencies. Future research should help deepen our understanding of the quality of these relationships.