Foster Care Outcomes
The 1994 Green Book Overview of Entitlement Programs notes: "Several
surveys conducted during the mid-1980s showed that a significant number of
homeless shelter users had been recently discharged from foster care."
One such study conducted in the Minneapolis area found that between 14%
and 26% of homeless adults were former foster care children, explained Michael
Weber, Director of the Hennepin County Community Services Department, during
joint hearings examining Foster Care, Child Welfare, and Adoption Reforms
(1988). A subsequent study of the long-term homeless in Minneapolis found
that 39% had experienced foster care or institutional care as children (Lindsey,
1994). In New York City, a study determined that between 25% and 50% of
the young men in the homeless shelters were former foster care wards (Oreskes,
1987). Perhaps the most distressing study of all, conducted in Calgary,
consisted of interviews with so-called "street kids." It was found
that an astounding 90% had been in foster care prior to winding up living
on the streets (Lindsey, 1994).
Among the homeless, the risks of continued family disruption are significantly
greater than among the general population. An ongoing study by the Institute
for Children and Poverty (1993) reveals that homeless families whose heads
of households grew up in foster care are at greatest risk of dissolution.
Individuals who grew up in foster care are 30% more likely to be substance
abusers and 50% more likely to have a history of domestic violence than
the overall homeless population. Twice as many of these heads of households
have already lost at least one child to foster care.
A 1991 federal study of former foster care wards found that one-fourth had
been homeless, 40% were on public assistance, and half were unemployed.
Connecticut officials estimate 75% of youths in the state's criminal justice
system were once in foster care (Bayles & Cohen, 1995). According to
a survey by the National Association of Social
Workers, 20% of children
living in runaway shelters come directly from foster care. Children placed
in out-of-home care, regardless of the reason, are at higher risk of developing
alcohol and drug problems. The survey also found that an incredible 80%
of prisoners in Illinois had spent time in foster care as children (Azar,
Under a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services,
Inc. released the second phase of a two-phase report in 1992 as a follow
up on youths who had been emancipated from foster care during the period
from January, 1987 and July, 1988. Westat found that the status of older
foster care youth two and one-half to four years after discharge is "adequate
at best" and that services are needed for this population to improve
their outcomes (Committee on Ways and Means, 1994). The 1994 Green Book
describes the results of the second survey:
Westat reported that only 54% of the study population had completed high
school, 49% were employed at the time of the interview, 38% maintained a
job for at least one year, 40% were a cost to the community in some way
at the time of the interview (receiving public assistance, incarcerated,
etc.), 60% of the young women had given birth to a child, 25% had been homeless
for at least one night, their median weekly salary was $205, and only 17%
were completely self-supporting.
As Children's Rights attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry explains: "Foster
care systems established and funded to serve children are failing, producing
only more damaged graduates who will go on to produce new generations of
damaged children, who will continue to lead unspeakably tragic lives and
who will increasingly tax our public resources" (Committee on Ways
and Means, 1995).