The Economic Well-Being of Youth Transitioning From Foster Care

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Author(s): The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Published: Dec. 4, 2017

Report Intro/Brief:
"Nationally, only about 10 percent of all young people ages 16 to 24 are unemployed. But the unemployment rate for young people aging out of foster care is 47 percent to 69 percent, depending on age and gender. This is a troubling finding because workplace experience is arguably even more critical for youth in the child welfare system. This brief is intended to help policymakers and service providers understand the barriers to education and employment for young people leaving foster care and help them design effective policies and practices to ensure these young people have the resources, relationships and opportunities needed as they transition into adulthood.

This research brief examines employment data from Opportunity Passport participants who were at least 16 years old and completed at least three Opportunity Passport Participant Surveys (OPPS) since 2008. Employment characteristics include rates, full-time status, average hours worked per week, hourly wages and training experiences. The brief concludes with specific recommendations for how policymakers and service providers should use this information to more effectively support young people.


Employment gains for black Opportunity Passport participants trailed those of their white peers from  ages 16 to 21. White participants were more likely to experience employment progression than their black peers from ages 16 to 18. While the gap between white and black participants narrowed between the ages of 19 and 21, black participants lagged behind their white peers.

Young parents did not achieve the same economic progression as their non-parent peers. Parenthood was associated with fewer transitions to employment across all age groups.

Young people who experienced group placements did not achieve the same economic progression as their peers who did not live in group placements. Group placements were associated with lower rates of employment and hourly wages from ages 19 to 21 and from ages 22 to 24.

Young people with more foster care placements had less economic progression from ages 19
to 21 compared with those with fewer foster care placements.

Opportunity Passport participants seem to be faring well in employment (figure below). A higher proportion of Opportunity Passport participants are employed compared with young people in the general population as well as 17- and 19-year-old NYTD respondents. However, the differences in employment outcomes among the groups could be due to differences among participants in those groups. While it is encouraging that young people in foster care are finding employment, it is important to consider that employment alone is not a universally positive outcome — it could be due to necessity and lack of educational opportunity."