Methods. Data and Samples: This study was based on a longitudinal analysis of data from the second cohort of the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD, FY 2014). The sample consisted of 8,915 youths (4,222 males and 4,693 females) residing in foster care nationwide. Each youth reported on their demographics, foster care status, and functional outcomes at ages 17 and 19. Measurement: Youths who did not have a high school diploma, and were not in school or employed at the time of the interview, were considered disconnected. At each time point (i.e., ages 17 and 19), youths were also asked about their parenthood status and various risk indicators, including homelessness, substance abuse referrals and incarceration. Analysis: First, we examined the proportion of youths disconnected from school and employment at ages 17 and 19. We also explored the proportion of youths who had children at each time point (prior to age 17; between ages 17-19). Next, we evaluated the relative contribution of each outcome (i.e., disconnection and parenthood) to the other by conducting separate binary logistic regression analyses. The first model examined disconnection at age 17 as the primary predictor of parenthood by age 19, and the second model examined parenthood by age 17 as the primary predictor of disconnection at age 19. All analyses were conducted separately by gender and accounted for participants` race/ethnicity, foster care status and risk indicators.
Results. About 4% of youths were disconnected from school and employment at age 17, and 9% were disconnected at age 19. At each time point, 5% (by age 17) and 11% (between ages 17-19) reported having a child. Among males, disconnection from school and employment at age 17 was unrelated to fathering a child by age 19. However, fathering a child by age 17 significantly increased the risk of disconnection at age 19 (OR=2.45, p=.001). Among females, disconnection at age 17 was associated with increased likelihood of giving birth by age 19 (OR=1.85, p=001). Furthermore, childbirth by age 17 heightened the likelihood of disconnection at age 19 (OR=2.03, p<.001).
Conclusions and Implications. Among older youths in foster care, disconnection from school and employment may co-occur with early parenthood, though the patterns of this relationship may differ by gender. In general, providing educational and vocational supports to both males and females with children may be essential for promoting self-sufficiency during the period of transition to adulthood.