On February 18, 2020, the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) report to Congress was released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The NYTD survey youth and young adults who experienced foster care and received independent living services under the Chafee Program as well as young adults’ outcomes. This report covers data from youth who were surveyed in FY 2014, 2016, and 2018 at ages 17, 19, and 21. The surveyed youth are referred to as NYTD youth. The report indicated that the surveyed youth would benefit from transitional services, 19 and 21-year-olds still in foster care have better outcomes, and foster care placement and length of stay correlate to education and employment outcomes. Overall, the results “underscore the importance of providing supports to youth who may be particularly vulnerable to challenging outcomes.”

For comparative foster care experiences, NYTD youth surveyed at age 17 were compared to youth ages 13-16 when exiting foster care. NYTD youth were more likely to have longer stays than youth ages 13-16, with over 51 percent staying from 12 to 48 months or more, but 57 percent of youth ages 13-16 stayed less than 12 months. The “results suggest that NYTD youth may have complex needs that contribute to longer lengths of stay and challenges that may hinder timely discharge from care.”

The report also compared 19 and 21-year-olds who were in care to 19 and 20-year-olds who were no longer in care. Youth who were still in care reported fewer incarcerations, experienced less homelessness in the past two years, and more were still attending school. For example, only 7 percent% of 21-year-olds in care were incarcerated, while 23% of 21-year-olds not in care were incarcerated. Furthermore, more youth in care received high school degrees, reported more connections to an adult, and were covered by Medicaid. The report showed the importance of considering “the potential protective factor foster care may be for youth who remain in or re-enter care after age 18.”

Gender and race/ethnicity differences in outcomes were also analyzed. More females reported attending school and having employment, while males ages 19 and 21 were twice as likely to have been incarcerated. Females were 1 percent more likely to face homelessness. There weren’t many significant differences among different races and ethnicities. More Native Indiana and Alaska Native youth and African American youth, when compared to White youth, were more likely to report being incarcerated.

The report analyzed the association between foster care experiences and outcomes for youth ages 19 to 21. Family foster home placements and fewer foster placements showed more positive results in every category, and youth in group homes or institutions were more likely to experience homelessness and incarceration. Fewer foster care placements and placement with families were associated with having more employment-related skills and achieving a high school degree. Despite this, over 50 percent of 19 and 21-year-olds who reported educational outcomes had been in foster care for two or more years, showing that longer stays in foster care can be beneficial.

Factors such as experiencing homelessness, having a child, and being incarcerated, significantly decrease youth’s readiness for transition to adulthood by the age of 21. “These results suggest that foster care experiences, such as staying in care longer and being placed in a family foster home, may be protective factors that improve a youth’s chances for achieving a successful transition to adulthood.” The more support that can be provided to youth who are vulnerable, the better their outcomes will be. To read the full report, go here.