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May 2019Vol. 20, No. 4The Differences in How Adolescents Exit Foster Care

Many youth leave foster care for reasons aside from achieving permanency, such as running away or reaching the age of majority and transitioning from care. The Center for State Child Welfare Data created a policy brief that explores how youth ages 13 to 17 leave foster care and how placement history and youth and county characteristics impact how youth leave care. The data were taken from the Multistate Foster Care Data Archive, which holds the foster care records of approximately 3 million children.

The study found that the majority (61 percent) of youth will exit care to permanency, including reunification, adoption, and guardianship. Of the remaining youth, 14 percent reach the age of majority, 13 percent runaway, 9 percent experience another nonpermanent exit, and 3 percent are still in care. While gender does not predict the likelihood of a youth leaving care to permanency, females are more likely to run away from care, and males are more likely to reach the age of majority. Additionally, reasons for exits vary among age groups. For example, 13- and 14-year-olds are more likely to exit to permanency than 15-year-olds, who are more likely to exit to permanency than 16- and 17-year-olds. Since adolescence is a time of great development, this study also highlights the importance of taking into account where a youth is developmentally when planning service improvements.

The full policy brief, Understanding the Differences in How Adolescents Leave Foster Care, is available at (3,380 KB).