The Economic Self-Sufficiency of Wisconsin's Former Foster Youth
This study uses administrative data to examine the self-sufficiency of 8511 former foster youth who were discharged from Wisconsin's out-of-home care system between 1992 and 1998 and were at least 16 years old at the time they were discharged. Three indicators of self-sufficiency were measured: employment, earnings and public assistance receipt. The youth were followed from the quarter in which they were discharged through the fourth quarter of 2000. Most were employed in at least one of the first eight quarters after their discharge, but relatively few had earnings in all eight. Quarterly earnings increased over time, but remained very low. Earnings were still below the poverty threshold even eight years post-discharge. Nearly one fifth of the youth received AFDC/TANF cash assistance in at least one of their first eight quarters after their discharge, and nearly one third received food stamps. Implementation of welfare reform was associated with a reduction in public assistance receipt, although other economic factors are also likely to have contributed to this downward trend. Relationships between these outcome measures and both the demographic characteristics and out-of-home care experiences of these former foster youth were examined using multivariate statistical techniques. The policy and practice implications of the findings are discussed.