By Johanna K.P. Greeson, Sara R. Jaffee, Sarah Wasch, and John Gyourko, The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research, September 2020
Disasters, including disease outbreaks like COVID-19, share a common potential for significant ecological and psychosocial disruption at the individual, community, and societal levels. The detrimental impact of COVID-19 is revealed daily in our news media. Although COVID-19 affects all segments of the population, it is especially harmful to members of social groups in the most vulnerable situations, including youth in foster care and those who have recently exited care. Given their intersecting vulnerabilities, older youth with foster care experiences are especially at risk. Often overlooked by our government, many of these youth struggle with situations and living conditions that do not meet even basic standards of health, education, employment, and well-being.
In March 2020, the United Nations Secretary-General said, “We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves. This is a matter of basic human solidarity. It is also crucial for combating the virus. This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable.”
This study aims to develop data-driven responses to the needs of current and former foster youth during COVID-19 specifically, and in disaster contexts generally.
The Field Center completed a national, online study of the experiences of older youth in and recently aged out of foster care during COVID-19. Nearly 500 young people logged on to the survey website. Slightly more than 300 participated. Our final analysis sample consisted of 281 young people between the ages of 18 and 23 from 32 states (+ Washington D.C.) and 191 cities across the United States. Our goal was to learn about participants’ housing, food security, education, employment, finance, health, mental health, and personal connections over one month of the COVID-19 crisis.
We developed our survey questions guided by a poll conducted by FosterClub in March 2020 that asked club members about their experiences during COVID-19 during a twoday window. We also based some of our questions on the outcomes portion of the National Youth in Transition Database survey, which collects outcomes information from youth transitioning out of foster care. Our final survey consisted of 46 questions. Data were collected using non-probability sampling and a cross-sectional survey design.