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March 2021Vol. 22, No. 3The Experiences of Older Youth in and Aged Out of Foster Care During COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a large impact on all levels of society. It has exposed weaknesses in systems and exacerbated disparities among the most vulnerable. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on older youth in foster care and those who have recently aged out. This population often has intersecting vulnerabilities and too often lack concrete and social supports, resulting in them struggling with their well-being and security.

The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research released a report, The Experiences of Older Youth In & Aged Out of Foster Care During COVID-19, that explores the experiences of older youth in and who had recently aged out of foster care during COVID-19 and seeks to develop actionable solutions to improve the well-being of this population. The development of the questions for the study was guided by a poll from FosterClub and outcomes from the National Youth in Transition Database survey. The report discuses survey responses from almost 300 youth about their experiences with housing, employment, food and economic security, physical and mental health, and social connections over the course of 1 month during the pandemic.

The survey found that COVID-19 had a negative impact for half or more of participants on housing, finances, food security, employment, educational progress, and mental health. The center used these results to inform practice and policy recommendations that would contribute to improving the well-being, safety, and health of these youth, including the following:

  • Ensure older youth in foster care stay housed and connected to services and caring adults
  • Connect youth in foster care with professionals and other caring adults to provide emotional and material support as well as reliable information
  • Ensure youth have access to assistance programs and distribute concrete resources

The center recommended five actions for child welfare agencies to take:

  • Ensure older youth in foster care are connected to caring adults.
  • Increase the frequency of virtual visitation with friends and family to strengthen relationships.
  • Ensure older youth have access to the internet through smartphones or computers.
  • Allow for flexibility in foster care stipends to ensure an adequate pool of foster homes during a crisis.
  • Create an emergency response plan.

The report includes a literature review, discussion of results, and additional recommendations.