Abstract: Housing Service Characteristics and Experiences of Homelessness and Incarceration for Youth Aging out of Foster Care (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Housing Service Characteristics and Experiences of Homelessness and Incarceration for Youth Aging out of Foster Care

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Independence BR G, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Melanie Nadon, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, IL
Samantha Guz, MSSW, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: Existing literature has extensively described the vulnerabilities and experiences of young people who age out of the foster care system, ranging from low earnings and educational attainment to high rates of incarceration and homelessness. Current evidence makes clear that homelessness and incarceration are serious outcomes with substantial policy implications, and that young people in foster care are much more likely to experience these outcomes than their non-child welfare involved peers (Bender et. al., 2015; Courtney et al., 2007; Courtney et al., 2011; Courtney & Dworsky, 2006). What is less clear, however, is how different social services may be related to these acute outcomes. To add to this literature, this paper examines the relationship between receiving tangible financial housing support and/or educational housing training and experiences of homeless and incarceration for youth aging out of care.

Methods: The data used in this study came from the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD), a national longitudinal study of federally defined social services provided to all young adults in foster care, and a sample of these young peoples’ general well-being outcomes. We analyze the complete data for the second cohort of youth tracked for this database, from 2014-2018. Using the NYTD, we treat three services as independent variables, 1) Room and Board Financial Assistance, 2) Housing Education and Home Management Training, and 3) Education and Financial Services (a generated variable indicating whether youth received both of these services). Using mixed effects multinomial logistic regression, we examined the effects these three independent variables had on three outcomes: 1) if a young person experienced only incarceration, 2) if a young person experienced only homelessness, and 3) if a young person experienced both incarceration and homelessness.

Results: Our analysis reveals that receipt of Room and Board Financial Services is associated with an approximately 45% decrease in experience of homelessness (p=0.000) and a 52% decrease in experience of both incarceration and homelessness (p=0.010). Housing Education and Home Management training is associated with about a 24% decrease in experiencing homelessness (p=0.023) and a 50% decrease in reporting both incarceration and homelessness (p=0.002). There were no significant associations for youth who received both services, and none of the three independent variables were associated with a significant difference in experience of incarceration only. Outcomes in each model covary with various demographics, but a notable consistent finding across all categories and services is that American Indian/Alaskan Native young people are significantly more likely to experience these adverse outcomes.

Conclusions and Implications: These findings have significant implications for policy and practice involving young people at risk of aging out of foster care. This analysis indicates that receipt of both tangible financial housing support and educational housing training are associated with substantial reductions in the risk of experiencing homelessness and experiencing both homelessness and incarceration. Furthermore, the finding that no services are associated with an effect on incarceration alone may be indicative of the promise of reducing youth homelessness as a key strategy for preventing incarceration in this population.