June 4, 2013

Report: Youth in Foster Care Less Likely Than Other Disadvantaged Youth to Complete High School

Highlights

  • California youth who have spent time in foster care are less likely than their peers with other disadvantages to complete high school, enroll in college, and persist to a second year of college
  • Foster youth are nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school and are less likely to attend college
  • Youth who have spent time in foster care are far less likely to meet grade-level proficiency standards in English-Language Arts

Media Contacts

  • News@rti.org
  • Lisa Bistreich-Wolfe
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  • Kami Spangenberg
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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—California youth who have spent time in foster care are less likely than their peers with other disadvantages to complete high school, enroll in college, and persist to a second year of college, according to a Stuart Foundation report written by researchers at RTI International, the Center for Social Services Research, and the Institute for Evidence-Based Change.

The report At Greater Risk: California Foster Youth and the Path from High School to College found that spending time in foster care increases the chances that youths will not complete a high school education. This adds a risk factor to students who were already at risk for not completing high school due to factors such as poverty and disability.

"Foster youth are among the most vulnerable young people in California," said Robin Henke, senior research associate at RTI and one of the report’s authors. "High school completion is a crucial milestone for students’ to consider and be able to attend college, and foster youth are among the least likely students in California to complete high school."

Compared with their peers in the general population, foster youth are nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school and are less likely to attend college. They are also less likely than other disadvantaged youth to complete high school (45 percent versus 53 percent).

Youth who have spent time in foster care are also more likely than students in the general population to attend schools with low performance ranks on the California’s Academic Performance Index (API) and are far less likely than both the general population and their low-income peers to meet grade-level proficiency standards in English-Language Arts.

The data for this study were assembled from state education and child welfare data systems by researchers at the Institute for Evidence-Based Change and the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Social Services Research. Researchers sampled data on 4,000 youth who were in foster care at some point during grades 9 to 11 from 2002 to 2007 and compared their outcomes with those of 4,000 peers with other disadvantages.