Youth in the foster care system face considerable challenges during the transition to adulthood. However, there is significant variability within this population. This study uses person-oriented methods and a longitudinal dataset of youth aging out of foster care to examine differences in how subgroups of foster youth fare during the transition to adulthood. We identified four distinct latent classes, consistent with prior person-oriented studies of this population, and validated these classes by examining differences on additional relevant factors at age 17. After establishing these classes, we tested their predictive validity by examining differences in outcomes at age 19 in domains relevant to the transition to adulthood, including education and employment, problem behaviors, and mental health problems. Finally, given the importance of extended foster care in promoting better outcomes, we used survival analysis to prospectively examine whether class membership was associated with differences in the rates at which youth left foster care between ages 17 and 19. One large group of youth exhibited moderate behavior problems and left care quickly, while another large group of resilient youth had favorable outcomes and left care relatively slowly. A small group exhibited considerable behavior and mental health problems, but left care more slowly, and a very small group was characterized by a history of pregnancy. Findings suggest considerable variability in service need among older foster youth. Implications for service provision during the transition to adulthood are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science