Pathways to and From Homelessness and Associated Psychosocial Outcomes Among Adolescents Leaving the Foster Care System

Objectives. We evaluated the prevalence and nature of housing problems among adolescents leaving foster care because of their age to provide evidence that can inform public and programmatic policies designed to prevent homelessness.

Methods. Housing and psychosocial outcomes in a sample of 265 adolescents who left the foster care system in 2002 and 2003 in a large midwestern metropolitan area were evaluated over a 2-year follow-up period. Analyses focused on identifying latent housing trajectory categories across the first 2 years after participants' exit from foster care.

Results. Findings revealed 4 latent housing classifications. Most participants (57%) had experienced stable housing situations since their exit from foster care. Those in the remaining 3 categories endured housing problems, and 20% were chronically homeless during the follow-up period. Housing instability was related to emotional and behavioral problems, physical and sexual victimization, criminal conviction, and high school dropout.

Conclusions. Adolescents in foster care are at considerable risk of homelessness. Preventive initiatives can reduce homelessness in this population by implementing improved foster care programming and developing empirically informed interventions targeting foster care adolescents.

Publication Date: 
United States