Homeless after Foster Care


  • Predictors of Homelessness during the Transition from Foster Care to Adulthood
    Youth who age out of foster care face a number of challenges during the transition to adulthood. Among the greatest may be achieving housing stability. A number of studies published overe the past two decades have found high rates of homelessness among former foster youth who aged out of care. Although this suggests that youth who age out of foster care are at high risk of becoming homeless, not much is known about which youth are most at risk. This Chapin Hall “Inside the Research” piece aims to fill in the gaps in this knowledge. (2013)

  • College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers
    This toolkit from The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) serves as a comprehensive resource on the issue of higher education access and success for homeless students. It provides local homeless education liaisons, State Coordinators for Homeless Education, school counselors, college admission counselors, college financial aid administrators, and youth shelters and other service providers with the resources they need to understand the options and supports available for college-bound homeless youth and assist these youth in accessing them. In addition to providing information on understanding homeless students, the toolkit includes the following sections: Choosing a College, Fee Waivers, Paying for College: Federal Aid, Paying for College: Beyond Federal Aid, and Supporting Student Success in College. (June 2013)

  • NRCPFC Toolkit for Practitioners/Researchers Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY)
    This National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC) toolkit for practitioners/researchers working with LGBTQ RHY draws findings from: first-hand accounts from interviews, literature reviews, and empirical research. The toolkit is infused with cultural considerations, recognizing the diversity of the LGBTQ RHY population. It outlines specific evidence-based and evidence-informed programs, practice models, and assessment/evaluation tools that are currently being used by agency staff working with LGBTQ RHY. It highlights available cultural sensitivity and standards of care training curricula for staff and youth from LGBTQ RHY-serving agencies and includes sample agency non-discrimination policies. This resource includes the following sections: Glossary; Introduction; LGBTQ RHY Population; Promising Practices with LGBTQ RHY – Telephone Interviews; Policy/Legislation for LGBTQ RHY; Service Gaps/Limitations; and, Directions for Future Research and Inquiry. This publication was authored by Kristin M. Ferguson-Colvin, Ph.D. and Elaine M. Maccio, Ph.D. (September 2012)

  • Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics, Programs, and Emerging Issues
    The Congressional Research Service released this 2007 report on runaway and homeless youth that outlines studies showing the demographics of homeless youth and cites issues of family conflict, abuse, neglect, and abandonment as reasons why youth flee from their families and homes. The report also notes that “youth who run away often have a history of involvement in the foster care system.” In particular, the report finds that at the close of fiscal year 2005, close to 11,000 foster youth had runaway from their placement and that 24,000 youth “age out” of foster care each year without “proper supports to successfully transition to adulthood.” (January 2007)

  • Homeless Youth
    This fact sheet from the National Coalition for the Homeless discusses the dimensions, causes, and consequences of homelessness among youth. An overview of program and policy issues and a list of resources for further study are also provided. (August 2007)

  • Web of Failure: The Relationship Between Foster Care & Homelessness
    This 1995 publication is the result of a national research project in which the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NEAH) examined the over-representation in the homeless population of people with a foster care history. The two-publication set includes the report and a 45-page appendix which is comprised of an annotated bibliography, case studies and data. Also available is an analysis done of the Washington, D.C. data, alone. (April 1995)

  • Youth Homelessness and the Lack of Permanent Relational Planning for Teens in Foster Care: Preventing Homelessness Through Relationship
    This is a discussion concerning youth homelessness and the lack of relational planning (i.e. a discharge from foster care to another human being) for older foster children. It discusses working class youth in families versus foster care youth discharges, common myths about where the homeless come from, independent living versus interdependent living, and what can be done.

  • Trauma Among Homeless Youth
    This brief from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network explores the trauma experienced by homeless youth and recommends treatment strategies. Information is provided on reasons why youth leave home, types of trauma experienced by homeless and runaway youth, and consequences of homelessness and trauma. (2007)

  • Homeless Children and Youth: Causes and Consequences
    The number of homeless families with children and unaccompanied youth has increased in recent years due to the lack of the affordable housing, and compounded by the current economic recession. What are the consequences? What has to be done for better outcomes of children and youth who experience homelessness? (September 2009)

  • Keep in Touch: Online Tool for Transitioning Youth
    Keep in Touch brings the true stories of three formerly homeless young people to participants in your transitional or independent living program. Each young person gives practical tips about how to stay connected, get support and live a successful adult life.
    Youth new to your transitional or independent living program will get an idea of what to expect. Youth leaving or graduating from your program will be encouraged to stay in touch and ask for help when they need it.
  • Does Keeping Youth in Foster Care Beyond Age 18 Help to Prevent Homelessness?
    Allowing young people to remain in foster care until their 21st birthday may not prevent, but may delay, entry into homelessness. Foster youth in Illinois are about one-third as likely to become homeless by age 19 and about three-quarters as likely to become homeless by age 21 as foster youth in Wisconsin and Iowa. However, by age 23 or 24, those differences have nearly disappeared. See this Inside the Research webpage from Chapin Hall for further details.

Resources and Studies from the States

  • California:
  • Massachusetts: 18 and Out: Life After Foster Care in Massachusetts
    This 2005 policy paper from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children focused on the many issues faced by youth who age out of the child welfare system, including homelessness. (April 2005)

  • Minnesota: Homeless in Minnesota: A Closer Look
    This 2005 survey of homeless youth and young adults from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation reveals some very harsh life experiences. Seven out of 10 of these young people spent time as children in a foster home, group home, or other residential facility. (April 2005)

  • Pennsylvania: Aged-Out and Homeless in Philadelphia
    This 2008 study from the Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition 1) looked at types of services youth received and the planning process leading to their discharge from foster care; 2) identified strategies, strengths, weaknesses and gaps in services and planning for this group; 3) determined the needs of young adults who are currently homeless and have been in substitute care at ages 16 or older; and 4) provides specific recommendations for improved services to youth prior to leaving care and in the delivery of services to homeless young adults. It does not address the need to provide permanent connections for these young people.

Audio, Teleconferences, Webcasts, and Webinars

  • The Nexus of Youth Homelessness and the Child Welfare System
    Panelists in this 2007 forum co-hosted by the Urban Institute and the University of Chicago's Chapin Hall Center for Children discussed reducing youth homelessness, focusing on two groups: youth who age out of the child welfare system and those who never qualify for its supports.

  • Research on Youth Homelessness
    This audio conference from the National Alliance to End Homelessness featured a review of existing data and demographics on homeless youth and covered reports released earlier this year from the Congressional Research Service, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Government Accountability Office. Additionally, the call highlighted other research relevant to youth homelessness.

  • Creating Trauma-Informed Programs: Youth Drop-In Centers and Beyond
    This free HRC (Homeless Resource Center) webcast which aired on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 explores strategies and challenges to creating trauma-informed services in a drop-in center for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. Ayala Livney from Youth on Fire, a drop-in center in Cambridge, MA shares her program’s experiences with trauma-informed care, along with trauma expert, Kathleen Guarino of the National Center on Family Homelessness. This dialogue offers important information about the basics of becoming trauma-informed and best practices in drop-in centers.



  • Homelessness Resource Center
    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has launched a new Homelessness Resource Center Web site. The Web site is designed to support individuals working to improve the lives of people affected by homelessness who have mental health conditions, substance use disorders, and histories of trauma.


Last updated 1/30/14