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

Examining Housing, Education, and Arrests During the Transition to Adulthood: The Importance of Supports for Marginalized Young Adults

Thursday, January 17, 2013: 1:30 PM-3:15 PM
Marina 6 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development
Symposium Organizer:
JoAnn S. Lee, MSW/MPA, University of Washington
The contemporary transition to adulthood is more prolonged than in previous generations, extending into the late twenties and early thirties for many young adults. The transition has also been destructructuralized, allowing for more individualized routes through the transition period and thus is often characterized as a period of loosened ties to social norms and institutions. Access to family support and resources has become increasingly important, allowing those with sufficient resources to take advantage of this period by exploring and delaying adulthood commitments. Unfortunately, many social institutions and policies have yet to adapt to the contemporary realities of the transition into adulthood.

Many disadvantaged youth lack the family supports that their peers experience during this period, either because they have been removed from their families, or because their families lack sufficient resources. This symposium presents three papers that examine the transition to adulthood for marginalized young adults, and articulate the critical importance of providing support to these young people and its effects on housing, postsecondary education enrollment, and arrests.

The first paper, “Leaving the Nest with No Return: Housing Patterns among Aged Out Foster Youth,” considers the housing patterns of a statewide sample of foster youth who have aged out of care. Unable to return to a parental home, as many of their non-former foster care peers do, the study sought to explore housing paths travelled by aged out foster youth. Housing instability was common among the sample, with comprehensive housing and support services helping to prevent greater instability from occurring.

The second paper, “What is the Postsecondary Education Achievement Process for Young Adults from Families with Low Levels of Family Capital?,” discusses a qualitative study of young people whose families participated in public or assisted housing that explored their thoughts and actions about their “possible futures.” Findings indicate that for education attainment, informal mentors played an important role in helping these marginalized youth, many of whom did not fully grasp the purpose and value of postsecondary education, to successfully apply and matriculate in college.

The third paper, “The Relationship between Extended Care and Arrests for Foster Youth during the Transition to Adulthood,” takes advantage of state policy differences to estimate the benefit of providing extended foster care, beyond age 18. Using data from a prospective, longitudinal study of youth aging out of care across three states, this study finds that extended care significantly reduces the risk for arrest during the first year, but this benefit declines thereafter.

Together, these three papers highlight the potential effects of providing supports to marginalized young adults with limited family support and resources, in stabilizing housing, increasing postsecondary educational attainment, and decreasing arrests during the transition to adulthood. Many marginalized youth who begin the transition to adulthood with limited skills and resources may focus on immediate survival rather than developing human capital. Establishing formalized, systemic support structures during the transition period would allow more marginalized youth to prepare for adulthood and help to prevent challenges associated with limited education, unstable housing, and arrests.

* noted as presenting author
Leaving the Nest with No Return: Housing Patterns Among Aged Out Foster Youth
Chris Lee, MSW, University of California, Berkeley
The Relationship Between Extended Care and Arrests for Foster Youth During the Transition to Adulthood
JoAnn S. Lee, MSW/MPA, University of Washington; Mark E. Courtney, PhD, University of Chicago
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