Performance Improvement 2009. What Long-Term Employment Patterns Do Youth Too Old for Foster Care Exhibit?


Looking at California, North Carolina and Minnesota, this study assessed employment outcomes for former youth through age 24 by linking child welfare, Unemployment Insurance (UI) and TANF administrative data outcomes for former youth through age 24 in three states. A primary task for youth in transitioning to adulthood is sustaining employment to be self-sufficient. Studies of former youth who age out of foster care find that they generally experience unstable employment patterns and earn low incomes between ages 18 and 20. However, less is known about whether these youths’ initial patterns of employment instability and low earnings persist. Descriptive, multivariate, and trajectory analysis techniques were employed to describe employment patterns.

Low rates of employment persisted through age 24; Low earnings persisted through age 24 though few received TANF benefits; and youth show four patterns of connectedness to the workforce that may provide insights to program planners considering how to best tailor services to youths’ needs. Four employment patterns were observed consistently across the three states studied. Consistently Connected Youth maintained high probabilities of employment between the ages of 18 and 24 and had earnings that were comparable to youth nationally. These youth represented 25% of former foster youth in California, 22% in Minnesota and 16% in North Carolina. Later Connected Youth got a slow start in the labor market, but steadily increased their probability of employment throughout their early twenties. This group included 20% of youth who aged out of foster care in California, 21% in Minnesota and 16% in North Carolina. Never Connected Youth had low probabilities of employment and hardly any earnings at time between ages 18 and 24 and did not have earnings prior to age 18. This group included 33% of former foster care youth in California, 29% in Minnesota and 22% in North Carolina. Finally, Initially Connected Youth began making connections to the workforce prior to adulthood and maintained a high probability of employment through their late teens, but their probabilities of employment then declined in their early twenties. This pattern was seen in 22% of youth who aged out of foster care in California, 29% in Minnesota and 46% in North Carolina. Some of these youth may have moved to jobs not covered by unemployment insurance wage data (such as military employment) or moved between states in ways we cannot track in the data.

Report Title: Coming of Age: Employment Outcomes for Youth Who Age Out of Foster Care Through Their Middle Twenties
Agency Sponsor: ASPE-OHSP, Office of Human Services Policy
Federal Contact: Laura Radel, 202-690-5938
Performer: Urban Institute
PIC ID: 8835

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