Abstract: Using the National Youth in Transition Database to Explore Postsecondary Enrollment of Youth in Foster Care (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

303P Using the National Youth in Transition Database to Explore Postsecondary Enrollment of Youth in Foster Care

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Amy Salazar, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA
John Paul Horn, MSW, Doctoral Student, Boston University, Boston, MA
Michael Cleveland, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
Background and Purpose: For youth in foster care, earning a postsecondary degree can be especially daunting given the large number of challenges these youth experience before, during, and after foster care. The National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) is a new nationwide longitudinal database overseen by the United States’ Administration for Children and Families that was developed to improve the knowledge base regarding the outcomes of youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood and the services that support them. NYTD is the first database of its kind in the United States that tracks young people in every state as they transition from foster care to adulthood. This paper uses NYTD data to explore factors related to postsecondary educational enrollment for foster youth.

Methods: Analyses included data from the NYTD youth outcomes database, NYTD transition services database, and Adoption and Foster Care Analysis System’s (AFCARS) foster care database. States’ data were included in this analysis if they achieved at least a 60% response rate for both NYTD youth outcome data collection time points (i.e., age 17 and 19) and reached out to all youth for both time points rather than a random sample. Youth were included if they completed both their age 17 and age 19 youth outcome surveys, and they did not have missing data regarding whether or not they were enrolled in a postsecondary program. The final sample for this paper included 1,541 youth. 55% identified as female. 39.9% identified as White non-Hispanic, 22.4% as Black non-Hispanic, 22.6% as Hispanic (any race), and 15.1% as another race/ ethnicity. Logistic regressions were used to test whether 25 separate factors related to youth history (e.g., ever homeless), demographics (e.g., gender, race), status at age 17 (e.g., whether employed, whether have a caring adult), and receipt of various types of transition services (e.g., postsecondary support services, mentoring services) were statistically significantly associated with postsecondary enrollment or completion by age 19.

Results: 30.4% of the sample were either enrolled in a postsecondary program or had already completed a postsecondary credential at their age 19 survey. Bivariate logistic regressions revealed 11 of the 25 factors (race/ethnicity; no history of homelessness, substance abuse, or incarceration; have no children; do not have a diagnosed disability; did not receive special education or mentoring services; receipt of postsecondary support, budget/financial management, and supervised independent living services) to be statistically significantly associated with an increased likelihood of postsecondary enrollment/ completion. The final multivariate regression model resulted in five statistically significant factors predicting postsecondary enrollment/completion: race/ ethnicity, no history of incarceration, no diagnosed disability, receipt of postsecondary support services, and NO receipt of mentoring services.

Conclusions and Implications: A variety of factors, both youth-focused and system-focused, impact the postsecondary enrollment of youth in foster care. The ongoing challenges faced by youth with past incarceration and diagnosed disabilities is apparent, and suggests the importance of intentional outreach to these youth, who may feel that postsecondary programs may not be an option for them. Additional implications of the findings will be discussed.