Foster Care

Young people who experienced foster care as teens or aged out of care have unique barriers to overcome on their journey to independent living, including high risk of health challenges, early pregnancy, poverty and homelessness.  The Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study (Casey Family Programs 2005) and the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth (Chapin Hall 2007) summarize many of these barriers and offers strategies for success.  The policy brief Easing the Transition to Adulthood (Society for Research in Child Development 2009) offers additional research and recommendations.  Over 100 youth age out of foster care in King County each year.  See also this opinion article (Seattle Times 2010) about education needs and outcomes.


Many young people experience homelessness because of family abuse, lack of acceptance and exit from foster care.  Many youth become victims of violence and abuse while living on the street.  Fundamental Issues to Preventing and Ending Youth Homelessness (National Alliance to End Homelessness 2006) and Homeless Young Adults Ages 18-24: Examining Service Delivery Options (National Health Care for the Homeless Council 2004) offer recommendations for addressing the needs of youth.  King County's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness includes local efforts to increase housing and services.  See also a 2012 feature (KPLU 2012) "New Tally Raises Estimate of King County Homeless Youth."  The Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute (2013) framed youth homelessness like this:

"Unaccompanied homeless youth are extremely vulnerable and have unique needs that are not appropriately addressed by systems designed for adults. Although poverty, lack of affordable housing, unemployment, low education levels, and other factors that contribute to adult homelessness also play a role in the occurrence and duration of homelessness among young people, family breakdown and systems failure are the primary causes of homelessness for most unaccompanied youth. Many of these young people become homeless as a result of severe conflict in their homes; physical or sexual abuse; rejection by their families due to sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, or mental health issues; or because they have aged out of the foster care system without the skills and resources necessary to live independently. They need a range of housing options and supportive services that take into account their developmental stage, lack of experience living independently and permanent connections, and traumatic experiences before and during homelessness.

Homelessness has serious consequences for unaccompanied youth and society. While living in shelters or on the streets, unaccompanied homeless youth are disproportionately likely to become victims of crime, suffer from physical and mental health issues, commit suicide, engage in risky sexual behaviors, drop out of school, and turn to delinquency as a means of survival. Without access to housing and supportive services, homeless youth experience poor educational, health, and workforce outcomes, leaving them ill-equipped to transition to stable and self-sufficient adulthood."