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Am J Public Health. 2013 Dec;103 Suppl 2:S318-23. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301455. Epub 2013 Oct 22.

Homelessness during the transition from foster care to adulthood.

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Amy Dworsky is with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Laura Napolitano is with the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ. Mark Courtney is with the School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago.



We estimated the incidence of homelessness during the transition to adulthood and identified the risk and protective factors that predict homelessness during this transition.


Using data from the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth, a longitudinal study of youths aging out of foster care in 3 Midwestern states, and a bounds approach, we estimated the cumulative percentage of youths who become homeless during the transition to adulthood. We also estimated a discrete time hazard model that predicted first reported episode of homelessness.


Youths aging out of foster care are at high risk for becoming homeless during the transition to adulthood. Between 31% and 46% of our study participants had been homeless at least once by age 26 years. Running away while in foster care, greater placement instability, being male, having a history of physical abuse, engaging in more delinquent behaviors, and having symptoms of a mental health disorder were associated with an increase in the relative risk of becoming homeless.


Policy and practice changes are needed to reduce the risk that youths in foster care will become homeless after aging out.

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