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    Foster Youth and Homelessness

    Homelessness Policy Research Institute

    Year: 2021

    The goal of the foster care system in the United States is to place these children in a situation of permanency, either with their own family or with an adoptive family (Children’s Bureau, 2020) (Papovich, 2020). While most of the roughly 600,000 children who enter the foster care system each year do end up with a permanent placement, about 7% of children in foster care exit the system and are immediately emancipated (Children’s Bureau, 2020). For these young people, the transition to adulthood is abrupt and often turbulent. Because of this sudden transition, the lack of support provided to young people in foster care, and the trauma these young people often carry, homelessness is a significant problem among youth who have recently aged out of the system (Rosenberg & Kim, 2017). Estimates of how many young people exiting foster care experience homelessness vary depending on the interview age of the sample, the study’s location, the definition of homelessness used, and various other factors (Curry & Abrams, 2014). A recent California study interviewed young people in foster care at age 17 and then four years later at age 21. The interviewers asked these young people whether they had been homeless and if they had couch surfed. Over 24% of respondents indicated they had experienced homelessness during that time and 36% of respondents said that they had “couch-surfed” (Courtney et al., 2018). This literature review describes the foster care system, focusing on its association with homelessness, particularly highlighting the disparities in how often foster care children experience homelessness after aging out and explore policy solutions to lessen this disparity.

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