Aims and objectives: The purpose of this study was to compare prevalence of substance use, high-risk sexual behaviors, and depression symptoms between homeless youth with and without a history of foster care placement. Background: Approximately 26,000 young persons exit foster care annually in the United States. Once they 'age out' of foster care, however, many young persons do not have access to comprehensive health care. They also are at risk for substance abuse, homelessness, or mental illness. Because persons with a history of foster care are at risk for negative psycho-social outcomes, it is unclear if these young people might be different than homeless youth without this history. Design: The design is descriptive and cross-sectional. Methods: A total of 156 homeless young persons, of whom 44 had a history of foster care placement, were recruited from a drop-in center that caters to homeless youth and young adults. Results: The sample was majority male and white; ages were 16-25. Significantly higher proportion of homeless former foster youth used methamphetamine within the last six months compared to non-fostered homeless youth p = 0.03). Homeless former foster youth were significantly older (p = 0.02) and less educated (p = 0.02) than their homeless counterparts without a history of foster care placement. Prevalence of using tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, crack cocaine, and powder cocaine were similar for both groups. Although not significant, a higher proportion of homeless former foster youth reported trading sex for money or drugs compared to non-fostered, homeless youth (19% versus 12% [trading sex for money], and 26% versus 14% [trading sex for drugs], respectively. Conclusions: Findings from this study show that, in general, homelessness is a negative outcome, irrespective of having a foster care history. However, those with that history need continued support when transitioning to independent living, such as access to health care, and encouragement to further their education. Relevance to clinical practice: It is important that nurses, who serve homeless youth populations, conduct a risk assessment profile, in order to ascertain a history of foster care placement, link former foster youth to social service agencies that provide risk reduction/health promotion education, and advocate for stable housing.
- Adolescent health
- Substance abuse