Which adolescents have non-permanent exits from foster care?
Most young people who enter foster care for the first time between the ages of 13 and 17, go home when their time in care ends. However, the older children are when they enter foster care, the less likely they are to exit into a permanent home. The latest study from Data Center researchers – conducted in collaboration with the Annie E. Casey Foundation – explores how child characteristics, placement history, and county characteristics influence the likelihood of adolescents exiting to permanency or non-permanency. Data for this study come from the Multistate Foster Care Data Archive (FCDA), a longitudinal archive containing the foster care records of approximately 3 million children nationwide.
Though adolescence is a unique developmental period, researchers found considerable heterogeneity in teenagers’ characteristics and outcomes. In this post, we highlight four key factors that influence whether adolescents leave care to permanency or non-permanency.
|Age||Findings show that exit destinations for 13-year-olds are markedly different from the exits reported for 14-year-olds; exit type varies greatly with age. Teenagers who are older when they first enter care are less likely to reach permanency than teenagers who enter care earlier in their adolescence, in part because they are more likely to reach the age of majority while in care. Compared to younger and older teenagers, teenagers who first enter care when they are 15 are the most likely to run away. These baseline differences must be accounted for when planning service improvements.|
|Race / Ethnicity||Black youth are less likely to attain permanency than white or Hispanic youth. Black and Hispanic youth are more likely to run away from care than white youth, but they are less likely to reach the age of majority while still in care. This indicates that black youth leave care in ways that are different than the ways white youth leave care, which adds to concerns about disparate outcomes tied to race and ethnicity.
|Gender||Gender does not predict the likelihood of leaving care to permanency, but adolescent males are more likely to reach the age of majority while in care, whereas females are more likely to run away from care. The fact that adolescent girls are more likely to run away from care than adolescent boys reinforces concerns about the vulnerabilities facing teenage girls connected to the child welfare system. Too little is known about why teenage girls run away, the risks associated with running away, and whether services designed to protect girls are effective.|
|County||The evidence also points to significant differences that stem from whether adolescents come from an urban or rural county. Youth from urban core counties achieve permanency at slower rates and are more likely to run away than children from rural counties. To improve child welfare systems, we need to understand how urban systems operate differently and how those differences are tied to outcomes. While county characteristics are important, the importance is mostly connected to the urban character of a county, as opposed to socioeconomic status of the local population. In this analysis, socioeconomic status of county population did not have a direct effect on outcomes.|
Leaving care to non-permanency: the case of running away
Of all youth who enter foster care for the first time between the ages of 13 and 17 and leave care to non-permanency, 1 out of 3 leave care by running away. To learn more about the experiences of runaway foster youth, we created a Running Away from Foster Care report for each FCDA member state. Using data from the state’s longitudinal file in the FCDA, the report explores how child characteristics, placement history, and county characteristics influence the likelihood of adolescents running away in a particular member state compared to all member states.
The Running Away from Foster Care report can be found in the latest menu addition to the FCDA web tool. To access the report, log into the Multistate portal of the FCDA web tool and click the new link in the left hand menu bar labeled State Reports.