Methods: Through secondary data analysis of the Virginia Longitudinal Data System and framed by the theory of Emerging Adulthood, the current study aimed to examine the extent to which discharge type was associated with employment and earnings of 4,940 former foster youth (ages 19-26). Specifically, comparing outcomes between youth who reunified with their families or were placed with a relative, to youth who emancipated from foster care, while holding constant factors related to demographics (e.g., biological sex), child welfare involvement (e.g., # of placements), education (e.g, high school completion), and adversities (e.g., neglect). Earnings were examined according to the poverty and living wages determined by the Massachusetts Institute for Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia (Glasmeier, 2020). Logistic regression analyses were used to assess the relationship between type of discharge from foster care and socioeconomic status.
Results: More than half of the sample (53.77 %) discharged care through emancipation. The majority of the sample (97.57 %) made at or below poverty wages even though more than half (53.60 %) of them were employed. Discharge type was not linked to employment nor earnings, However, completing high school and attending college were both related to being employed and being in a higher earning category (e.g., living wage).
Conclusions and Implications: Overall these findings suggest high rates of poverty amongst former foster youth. Findings provide evidence for reimagining the available supports for all youth who experience foster care, regardless of their discharge type, to promote equity and sustainability for these youth and their socioeconomic trajectories.