Methods: A secondary analysis was completed on survey data collected through a micro grant program offered by Think of Us Global to support foster care youth facing economic challenges during the pandemic. This cross-sectional survey data was collected in November 2020 over a three-week period. The final sample included 7718 foster youth who were enrolled in a post-secondary program as of March 2020, right before the pandemic hit. Multinomial logistic regression was used to model the associations between the covariates (sexual identity, race, gender, parenting status and housing condition) on college enrollment status (full-time college enrolled, part time college enrolled, certificate/vocational program enrollment, left school) from pre-COVID through the pandemic.
Results: Foster youth who were enrolled in school part-time and those in certificate/vocational programs were significantly more likely to drop out during the pandemic crisis than foster youth enrolled full time pre-pandemic (OR = 2.87; 3.39, P< .001). Students who lived off campus, identified as African American, and those who identified as parents were also more likely to leave school during the pandemic (OR= 2.33, 1.24, 2.45, p<.001). Protective factors that lowered the odds of dropping out included being Hispanic or Latinx (OR=.70, p<.001), and being female (OR=.77, p<.001). Sexual identity was not a significant predictor of leaving school; however, during the pandemic, students who identified as LGBTQ were 1.5 times more likely to move from full to part time status (OR=1.52, p<.05).
Conclusions: Students who were enrolled in school full time and living in on-campus housing pre-pandemic experienced the greatest stability in education enrollment during the pandemic. The ability to maintain engagement in campus community life including living on campus during the pandemic appears to have been a large protective factor for foster youth in promoting their educational well-being during the pandemic crisis.