• November 2002
  • Vol. 3, No. 9

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Study Reports Employment Outcomes for Youth Aging out of Foster Care, Creates Baseline

Youth aging out of foster care are underemployed and progress more slowly in the labor market than other youth, according to a report on employment outcomes of children exiting foster care. The study Employment Outcomes for Youth Aging out of Foster Care focused on youth exiting foster care near their 18th birthdays in California, Illinois, and South Carolina during a 13-quarter time period in the mid-1990s. As the 1999 Foster Care Independence Act ("The Chaffee Act") provides States fiscal incentives to enhance the future prospects of youth aging out of foster care, the study creates a baseline against which the experiences of youth in the future and in other States can be compared. The results are also compared to youth that were reunified with their parents prior to their 18th birthday as well as to low-income youth.

Findings of the report include:

  • Aging-out youth are underemployed -- no more than 45 percent of the aging-out youth have earnings in any of the three States during any one of the 13 quarters of the study. This is also the case for reunified youth.
  • Patterns of unemployment vary by State -- there were no earnings during the entire 13-quarter period for approximately 30 percent of aging-out youth in Illinois, 23 percent in California, and 14 percent in South Carolina.
  • Youth who work begin work early -- if youth in California and South Carolina did not work prior to exiting foster care, there was only a slightly more than 50 percent chance they would begin work after exit; youth in Illinois who had no earnings prior to their 18th birthday had less than a 50 percent chance of beginning work by the age of 20.
  • Aging-out youth have mean earnings below the poverty level -- these youth average less than $6,000 per year in wages, which is substantially below the 1997 poverty level of $7,890 for a single individual.
  • Aging-out youth progress more slowly in the labor market than other youth -- in Illinois, aging-out youth had a smaller increase in earnings than low-income youth; but low-income and aging-out youth in California had a larger increase in their earnings than reunified youth.

The full report is available on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website at http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/fostercare-agingout02/.

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