Abstract: More Than Just a Parent: Examining Parental Subgroup Differences for Foster Care Alumni (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

More Than Just a Parent: Examining Parental Subgroup Differences for Foster Care Alumni

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 12, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Justin Harty, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Nathanael Okpych, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut, Hartford
Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Mark Courtney, PhD, Samuel Deutsch Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: There has been a growing interest in understanding the outcomes of parenting foster youth (PFY). What is known is based on a small number of studies, many of which focus on just mothers (Eastman et al., 2019). Moreover, we know little about how outcomes vary for different important subgroups of parents, such as those living with their child(ren) versus those living apart from their child(ren). Our study addresses these gaps by examining outcomes for sample that includes both mothers and fathers, and by exploring differences in outcomes for meaningful subgroups of PFY.

Methods: Our analysis includes 248 CalYOUTH participants who completed the Wave 4 interview at age 23/24 and had at least one child. We created PFY subgroups based on youth’s gender (0=fathers vs. 1=mothers), whether they had a child under five years old (0=no, 1=yes), whether they resided with at least one of their children (0=no, 1=yes), and whether they reside with a romantic partner/spouse (0=no, 1=yes). We also created a four-category variable of the PFY’s race/ethnicity (1=Hispanic, 2=Black, 3=Multiracial/Other, 4=White). We examined subgroup differences for the following outcomes: parental stress (scale alpha=0.82), parental involvement (scale alpha=0.70), child court dependency status (0=no, 1=yes), youth is connected to work/school (0=no, 1=yes), experienced economic hardship in the past year (0=no, 1=yes), experienced food insecurity in the past year (0=no, 1=yes), amount in checking/savings account, and average monthly amount of public food assistance benefits. We used ANOVA and chi-square tests to examine outcome differences between PFY subgroups.

Results: For PFY subgroups, 78.9% were mothers, 90.7% had a child under five, 79.5% were resident parents, and 52.0% lived with a partner/spouse. We found several significant (p<.05) between-group differences. Mothers were more likely than fathers to experience an economic hardship (58.3% vs. 37.6%), and received more in monthly public food assistance ($230 vs. $58). PFY with a child under five were less likely to report being food insecure than PFY with all children over five (23.8% vs. 45.8%). Compared to nonresident parents, resident parents had higher parental stress (1.22 vs. 1.09) and greater parental involvement (4.38 vs. 3.23), were less likely to be food insecure (22.4% vs. 38.7%), and received more food assistance ($218 vs. $95). Compared to PFY not residing with a romantic partner/spouse, PFY living with one were less likely to have a child who was a dependent of the court (3.8% vs. 16.4%) to report an economic hardship (43.6% vs. 65.2%), and to experience food insecurity (33.7% vs. 18.5%).

Discussion and Contributions: Our study contributes to our understanding of outcomes among diverse PFY subgroups. Findings suggest that mothers experience more hardships and food insecurity than fathers. Some parental subgroups may have access to supports that can protect against experiences of hardships and food insecurity, such as living with a romantic partner/spouse (financial help) and being a resident parent (access to food assistance). While we created diverse subgroups, the large percentage of mothers in the sample and their custodial role may explain some of the subgroup differences we observe.