Living in the system: how foster care affects the academic experiences of youth of color

The purpose of this study is to explore, and unearth, the challenges that youth of color face while they are in the foster care system. In the long term, these challenges may have a negative impact on their academic success rates and livelihood. In this study, we provide an analysis on the long-term consequences for foster youth of color as they transition out of the system and into adulthood. Research Questions: Though both youth who have been raised in foster care and those raised in the general population may face similar challenges during their developmental transitions, youth who are in foster care may not receive the same academic experiences, support, and resource availability as non-fostered youth. What challenges do youth experience while being in the foster care system? Do they have difficulty academically, and transitioning into adulthood from these affects? Moreover, do youth of color in the foster care system experience more challenge in this area than other races? Hypotheses: We predict that youth living within the foster care system have negative effects in their academics due to various contributors such as trauma, lack of support, lack of resources, mental health/behavioral issues, and more. Moreover, as another marginalized group, youth of color are overrepresented in the foster care system. Methods: The study conducted secondary data analysis of existing national data archives containing basic demographic and outcome information for foster youth who were eligible for the outcomes survey of the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) and contains the results of a periodic survey of youth who turn 17 in certain years, along with follow-up surveys at ages 19 and 21. Results: Foster youth, especially those of color, do in fact face many challenges due to having been in the foster care system for some, or all, parts of their lives. Discussion: The foster youth population makes up approximately 39.1% of the total number of foster children in the United States (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). Though they face many obstacles, foster youth are extremely resilient. However, they are in dire need of more support and access to protective factors that aid in their success and well-being.