Abstract: Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Young People Transitioning out of Foster Care (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Young People Transitioning out of Foster Care

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 12, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Rachel Rosenberg, PhD, research scientist, Child Trends, Bethesda, MD
Alaina Flannigan, PhD, Research Scientist, Child Trends, MD

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has fundamentally shifted our connection as a global community, our access to good and services, and our ability to work safely. While COVID-19 impacts the entire country, the devastation is more severe in certain communities with Black and Hispanic communities experiencing higher infection and mortality rates than White communities (CDC, 2021). These differences are due to systemic racism, including the effects of overrepresentation in jobs that pose greater risk of virus exposure coupled with inequitable access to healthcare. Additionally, children and youth in foster care and their families have experienced unique barriers to connection during the pandemic with in-person visitation ending, court delays and closures prolonging stays in care, and a decrease in safe and reliable placement options. For older youth in foster care, these effects were even more pronounced.


Data come from the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative (JCYOI) restricted use dataset. This paper examines the impact of COVID-19 on young adult outcomes for youth transitioning out of the foster care system. The paper will utilize an interrupted time series model to examine changes in housing, educational enrollment, employment, financial capability, and mental health. While this abstract focuses on descriptive statistics, the full model results will be available by January 2022.


Our sample includes surveys completed by 1,544 young people in October 2020. Respondents were 68% female and 32% male. Twenty-eight percent identified as Black, Non-Hispanic (NH), 17% identified as Hispanic, 10% identified as multiracial, 37% identified as White, NH, and 8% identified as a race or ethnicity other than White, Black, multiracial, or Hispanic. 29% of these youth identified as LGBTQ, 60% were 18-21 years old, 40% were 22-26 years old, and 17% were in extended foster care.

In October of 2020—7 months into the global pandemic—86% reported having stable housing, 69% reported being employed, and 38% reported being enrolled in school. Of those youth who were enrolled in school pre-pandemic, 4% were forced to drop out, 1% reported their school was closed indefinitely, and 4% reported their school was closed with plans to reopen. Twenty-one percent reported negative changes in their housing due to COVID-19, and 63% reported changes to the employment due to COVID-19.


The recent stimulus package included over $400 million for states to provide services to youth in or recently exited from foster care. These funds must be concentrated within the population of foster youth with the greatest need. The findings of this study highlight a decrease in opportunity due to COVID-19. These news funds, if allocated correctly, can increase opportunity and services for those youth most in need. Policy, practice, and research implications will be discussed.