Abstract: Parenthood and COVID: Experiences of Young Adults with Lived Experience in Foster Care (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Parenthood and COVID: Experiences of Young Adults with Lived Experience in Foster Care

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Ahwatukee A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Monica Faulkner, PHD, Director, Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing, Austin, TX
Nadine Finigan-Carr, PhD, Director, Prevention of Adolescent Risks Initiative (PARI), University of Maryland at Baltimore, MD
Background and Purpose: Research has suggested that young adults with lived experience in foster care struggled during the COVID19 pandemic with issues like food insecurity and unemployment. In particular, research with young parents highlighted issues with accessing resources and support. As resources are made available to assist young adults with lived experiences in foster care, it is critical to understand which subpopulations may need increased assistance. This study compares young parents to all other young adults with lived foster care experience to understand what unique challenges they have faced during the pandemic.

Methods: The Expectant and Parenting Youth Survey explored the practices and policies that impact youth in foster care who are pregnant or parenting. Conducted online in April 2021, it was advertised via social media and listservs to former foster youth and youth in extended foster care who were over the age of 18. Youth were asked if they had issues with food insecurity, employment, school, transportation, their health, housing, medicine, support, mental health and stress. A total of 160 youth completed the survey, but 9 had incomplete data on the COVID19 pandemic questions. A final sample of 151 youth were included in this analysis. A series of hierarchical logistic regressions were run to understand if parenthood increased the odds of having issues during the pandemic.

Results: 30% of youth reported being parents. The only significant demographic difference between parents and non-parents was race/ethnicity. White youth (33%) were less likely to report being parents compared to other youth (57%; t=7.702, p=0.006). Youth who were parents reported having more issues with food security (Χ2=4.403, p=0.036), employment (Χ2=2.056, p=0.090), transportation (Χ2=1.904, p=0.092), health (Χ2=2.028, p=0.056), housing (Χ2=2.481, p=0.022), and medicine (Χ2=2.386, p=0.029). Once covariates were added to the model, parenting was generally still a significant factor, but age and being in extended care were also factors impacting the likelihood of youth having issues during the COVID19 pandemic. For example, with covariates, parenting was no longer associated with issues related to housing payments. Rather, being older meant a 36% increase in the odds of reporting issues with housing payments. In contrast, youth who were in or had been in extended foster care had 78% decreased odds of reporting transportation issues.

Conclusions and Implications: While these findings are limited due to the non-random sample, patterns offer insight into the needs of young parents with lived experience in foster care. In general, young parents were more likely to report having problems accessing resources during the COVID19 pandemic. However, extended foster care does appear to help reduce the likelihood of having problems. Older young adults also have a higher likelihood of reporting issues likely because they are too old for services in many states. Policies and practices should focus their efforts on ensuring young parents are connected to help and extend age limits on services.