On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY)presented their report, Holding on by a Thread: The Cumulative Impact of the Pandemic on Youth Who Have Been in Foster Care or Homeless. JBAY conducted an online survey of 598 youth who have been in foster care or experienced homelessness from the State of California from March 9th-March 28th, 2021. The sampling frame included youth age 18-24 who are currently or formerly in foster care.
JBAY reported the effects of the pandemic on housing, education, employment, mental health, parenting youth, and racial disparities. Since the start of the pandemic, 22 percent of respondents reported experiencing an episode of homelessness, and this housing instability has worsened over time. Black youth have been particularly impacted by housing instability during the pandemic. A 2017 Voices of Youth survey found that Black youth were 83 percent more likely to experience homelessness.
Since February 2020, 35 percent of Black youth have experienced homelessness compared to 20 percent of non-Black youth. Young parents face more significant challenges than non-parents, many of whom have lost access to indispensable services, including formal and informal child care, school, and their jobs. The pandemic has also had a pervasive impact on youth mental health. Fifty percent of respondents reported feeling ‘“down, depressed or hopeless”’ every day or more than half the days, an increase from the 24 percent who reported it back in April 2020”. The pandemic has also led to a loss of income due to unemployment. Seventy-five percent of youth who were working before the pandemic reported that it has had a direct impact on their employment. Many reported that direct assistance played a vital role in helping pay for necessities such as rent and food. Lastly, 100 percent of respondents enrolled in school reported at least one negative impact on their education.
JBAY reported the following recommendations to help youth who have been in foster care or homeless:
- To help youth get back on track, we must provide them safe, affordable housing
- Invest in youth to get back on track educationally
- Provide immediate economic assistance to youth
- Integrate supportive services into all aspects of serving youth who have been in foster care or experience homelessness
- Provide direct, immediate financial support to parenting youth