Foster care is linked to homelessness in two ways. Firstly, a foster care history is linked to later homelessness. Secondly, children of homeless families are more likely to end up in foster care. Childhood placement in foster care corresponds with a substantial increase in the length of a person’s homeless experience, an increased tendency for homeless people to have their own children end up in foster care, and a heightened likelihood that they will become homeless earlier than people who have not been in foster care. People who are homeless typically have a number of placements as children, both in foster care and in the homes of friends and family.
There are a number of reasons that foster care could lead to homelessness. While in foster care, children are not always given therapy to help them address the problems that brought them to foster care. This may include sexual and physical abuse, family dissolution, parent alcohol and substance abuse, and being abandoned or orphaned. Nor do they receive treatment for their own resulting behavioural problems.
Foster care placements can also be abusive places as many people have been physically or sexually abused while in foster care. Multiple placements can preclude the development of the nurturing bonds that have been shown to be critical to normal development. Moving children from placement to placement seems to exacerbate the inability of the foster care system to provide them with consistent treatment for their mental or physical health problems.