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National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Assessing Homelessness and Incarceration Among Youth Aging Out of Foster Care, by Type of Disability.

Lee, J.S., Gimm, G., Mohindroo, M. & Lever, L.
Type new
Journal Article
Year published new
Journal Name

Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal


Youth in foster care are at greater risk of incarceration and homelessness as they age out of care and transition to adulthood. Prior studies have shown that multiple placements, childhood trauma, race and ethnicity, and educational attainment are associated with these adverse outcomes. However, few studies have examined the prevalence and risk factors of incarceration and homelessness among youth in foster care with disabilities as they age out and transition into adulthood. Using data from the 2014 cohort of the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) and Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS), this study examines the prevalence of incarceration and homelessness by disability type at age 17, and how risk factors are related to incarceration and homelessness at ages 19 and 21. Findings show that youth in foster care with emotional disabilities are more likely to experience homelessness and incarceration, but this association was not robust in multivariate models. On the other hand, those with a physical or intellectual/developmental disability have lower odds of homelessness. Employment and school enrollment are associated with a lower risk of homelessness and incarceration, regardless of disability type. These results suggest that disaggregating youth in foster care by type of disability is necessary to provide specific recommendations to improve and target resources and supports for these vulnerable youth as they age out of foster care and transition to adulthood.