Abstract: Aging out of Foster Care: Disparities By Race/Ethnicity and Disability (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Aging out of Foster Care: Disparities By Race/Ethnicity and Disability

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 8, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Amanda Aykanian, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, TX
Catherine LaBrenz, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Ashley Palmer, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington
Background: In 2019, over 20,000 youth aged out of foster care in the U.S. Aging out is often considered a negative outcome, as youth who age out do not achieve legal permanency via exiting the foster care system to a family. Indeed, aging out increases a youth’s risk of legal system involvement, homelessness, and behavioral health disorders. Despite robust evidence of negative outcomes associated with aging out of care, few studies have examined national rates of aging out by race and disability status to highlight disparities and groups that may require targeted services. Using national data, this study explored the relationship between race/ethnicity, disability, and aging out at two distinct time points.

Methods: Secondary data analyses were run using data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis System (AFCARS), an annually collected administrative database containing the population of children in care for each fiscal year. Data from FY 2010 and FY 2019 were analyzed to compare disparities by race/ethnicity and disability status in aging out. The analytic sample for this paper included n=60,151 children aged 16-21 years who exited foster care in the U.S. during 2010 and n = 40,890 children aged 16-21 who exited foster care in 2019. Descriptive statistics were calculated to observe sample characteristics, bivariate statistics included chi-squares to compare rates of aging out, and post-hoc analyses were conducted on one-way ANOVAS to compare rates of aging out across racial/ethnic groups. All analyses were run using SPSS version 25.

Results: Overall, 44.5% of youth ages 16-21 who exited care in 2010 aged out (n = 28,827), compared with 50.1% in 2019 that aged out (n = 20,737). Racial disparities were present in aging out among youth exiting care in 2010 (F=20.49, p<.001) and 2019 (F=56.37, p<.001). The proportion of Black, Asian, and Hispanic children aging out compared to White children aging out significantly increased between 2010 and 2019. Youth with disabilities had higher rates of aging out in 2010 and 2019. Disparities by disability status and race/ethnicity were also observed; two-thirds of Asian youth with a disability aged out (n = 57; 67.1%), compared to approximately half of White youth with a disability (n = 3,392; 51.8%).

Conclusion: Despite several programs and policies developed between 2010 and 2019 to improve permanency outcomes for children, results from this study suggest that racial disparities persist and have increased over time. Furthermore, disability status resulted in higher rates of aging out among children of color than among white children. Future research should explore these disparities to understand what might drive disparities in aging out and to evaluate initiatives or strategies to promote equity.