Youth Exiting Foster Care During COVID-19

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Young People Leaving Care, Practitioners and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Experiences, Support, and Lessons for the Future

Louise Roberts, Alyson Rees, Hannah Bayfield, Cindy Corliss, Clive Diaz, Dawn Mannay, and Rachael Vaughan


The pandemic has prompted a flurry of research activity seeking to understand responses to COVID-19, as well as the needs and experiences of individuals both receiving and delivering social care services during these unprecedented times (Baginsky and Manthorpe 2020; Bhatia 2020; Blake-Holmes 2020; Cook and Zschomler 2020; Dafuleya 2020; Ferguson et al 2020; Henrickson 2020; Iyer et al. 2020; Lingam and Sapkal 2020; O’Sullivan et al 2020; Rambaree and Nassen 2020; Sanfelici 2020; Sengupta and Jha 2020; The Fostering Network 2020; Walter-McCabe 2020). This research project predominantly focused on the Welsh context and aims to contribute to this emerging body of evidence, with a specific focus on the needs, support and experiences of young people leaving local authority care.

“I Already Had My Own Struggles. So Then, When the Whole World is Struggling, It Doesn’t Really Help”: The Voices of Young People Leaving Care During COVID-19 in Northern Ireland

B. Kelly, C. Walsh, J. Pinkerton, A. Toal
Northern Ireland


The study sought to examine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives of young people leaving care in Northern Ireland. The fieldwork was undertaken between August and September 2020. At this time, the initial lockdown of communities that had been introduced by Government in late March 2020 in response to the emergence of Covid-19 had been lifted, although some restrictions were still in place. By the stage of writing up the findings of the study, the numbers of people affected by the virus were rising exponentially and further restrictions, including local lockdowns, were being re-introduced.

The Forgotten Students: COVID-19 Response for Youth and Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care

Mauriell H. Amechi


In March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic upended American higher education and shuttered campus doors across the country. As the opening vignette illustrates, many college students reported severe housing and food insecurities as a result. Nevertheless, not all college students experienced COVID-19’s effects and consequences equally. For example, Ivory, a current student enrolled at Concordia University Texas who spent 17 years in foster care, illuminated some of the difficulties she has personally faced in the wake of COVID-19. College students impacted by foster care make up approximately 5% of all undergraduates, and many are struggling to have their basic needs met as educational costs continue to rise. As campuses prepare to reopen in varied capacities in the fall, the ongoing crisis continues to pose a significant threat to youth and young adults aging out of foster care. As part of its COVID-19 response, Congress must prioritize the availability of essential supports and resources for this vulnerable group. This policy brief outlines recommendations for the federal government to consider, including:

  • Issuing a moratorium on aging out of foster care and implementing extended foster care until the age of 21 in all 50 states, 
  • Lifting the cap on Chafee Program housing assistance,
  • Increasing Chafee Program funding to provide personal and educational supports to foster youth, and
  • Strengthening postsecondary data to provide a clearer picture of the experiences and outcomes of students with foster care experience nationally.

Impact of COVID-19 Among Young People Currently and Formerly in Foster Care

Rachael Rosenberg, Sunny Sun, Alaina Flannigan, Maia O’Meara,


Background: COVID-19 continues to have devastating impacts across the United States, causing high levels of unemployment and disconnection from work and school. Furthermore, some communities are at higher risk for adverse outcomes due to the pandemic, including transition age foster youth. Transition age foster youth report negative impacts on their employment, educational attainment, ability to meet basic needs, and their connection to work and school.

Objective: The current study examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on key young adult outcomes including education, employment, financial well-being, and disconnection from work and school.

Methods: Young people from the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative complete a survey every April and October. This study focuses on a subsample of 2117 young people who completed 8004 surveys. Utilizing an interrupted time series design, we examine changes in outcomes at six time points pre-pandemic onset (April 2017–October 2019) and two timepoints post-pandemic onset (October 2020 and April 2021).

Results: The pandemic slowed the declining school enrollment rates but did not reverse the downward trend that started before the pandemic. The pandemic decreased the number of young people who were employed and increased the number of those who were disconnected from work and school. The pandemic increased the number of young people who reported having savings.

Conclusion: Transition age foster youth need access to employment and educational opportunities, which were disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional resources are needed to ensure young people are connected to work and school.

“It’s Been a Massive Struggle”: Exploring the Experiences of Young People Leaving Care During COVID-19

Louise Roberts, Dawn Mannay, Alyson Rees, Hannah Bayfield, Cindy Corliss, Clive Diaz, Rachael Vaughan

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This article explores the experiences of young people leaving state care during COVID-19. Twenty-one young people, predominantly from Wales, engaged in semi-structured interviews and/or contributed poems and artwork conveying their experiences of the pandemic. The data generated offered insights into young people’s daily lives, including their routines and relationships, as well as access to resources and services. The study found stark disparity in young people’s experiences, with some reassured by support responses, and others feeling neglected and forgotten.

As an already disadvantaged group, the challenges presented by COVID-19 further hinder young people’s transitions to adulthood. The ‘massive struggles’ faced by some young people reflect immediate difficulties which also have the potential for longer-term impacts. The recommendations of the study, informed by care-experienced young people, seek to positively influence policy and practice.

Mitigating the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic Response on At-Risk Children

Charlene A. Wong, David Ming, Gary Maslow, Elizabeth J. Gifford


Although children are not at the highest risk for severe illness, necessary pandemic public health measures will have unintended consequences for the health and well-being of the nation’s at-risk children. School closures, social distancing, reduction in health care services (e.g. canceling non-urgent health care visits), and ubiquitous public health messaging are just some of the measures intended to slow the COVID-19 spread. Here, we highlight the health risks of the pandemic response measures to vulnerable pediatric sub-populations and propose risk mitigation strategies that can be enacted by policy makers, health care providers and systems, and communities. The selected risks and proposed mitigation strategies are based on existing evidence and opinions of expert stakeholders, including clinicians, academicians, frontline service providers (eg, social workers), and public health leaders.

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