Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Prevalence of Youth with Disabilities among Older Youth in Out-of-Home Placement: An Analysis of State Administrative Data

Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Prevalence of Youth with Disabilities among Older Youth in Out-of-Home Placement: An Analysis of State Administrative Data

Article excerpt

Children with disabilities are overrepresented in in out-of-home-placement; however, there is little research available on the prevalence of older youth with disabilities in foster care. Using state administrative data, this exploratory study used descriptive statistics and logistic regression analysis to examine the prevalence and demographic make up of older youth with disabilities in one state's out-of-home placement system. Findings indicate that in one state, youth with disabilities are overrepresented in out-of-home placement and differ in their racial and ethnic identities from youth with disabilities who are not in foster care in the same state. Implications for research, policy, and practice are discussed.

Although research suggests that youth with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system (Crosse, Kaye, 6c Ratnofsky, 1992; Sullivan 6c Knutson, 2000), they are often imperfectly excluded in the research on youth within the system (Courtney 6c Dworsky, 2005; Reilly, 2003). For example, in Chapin Hall Center for Children's landmark study on youth aging out of foster care, the authors reported specifically excluding youth with developmental disabilities and severe mental illness from their sample; however, they also indicated that over half the youth in the sample received special education services at some point in their educational careers (Courtney 6c Dworskey, 2005; Courtney,Teraro 6c Bost, 2004). Additionally, the specific needs of youth with disabilities either while they are in care, or during their transition from foster care, generally are not an area of focus for child welfare practice (Lightfoot 6c LaLiberte, 2006). However, not only is there a high incidence of youth with disabilities in out-of-home placement, but youth with disabilities who are emancipating from foster care are at risk for particularly poor adult outcomes. The research that has focused on the experiences of these youth has found that there are even lower rates of employment, educational attainment, and economic stability among youth with disabilities than among their non-disabled peers (Anctil, McCubbin, O'Brien, 6c Pécora, 2007a; Anctil, McCubbin, O'Brien, Pécora, 6c Anderson-Harumi, 2007b; Zetlin, 2006). Until there is a better understanding of the prevalence and experience of youth with disabilities in foster care, it is unlikely that these outcomes will improve. Expanding the typical study sample to include youth with disabilities, rather than imperfectly excluding them, will help to improve services and systems for this population by increasing knowledge and awareness of their unique challenges in the transition to adulthood. This study examines the prevalence of older youth with disabilities in foster care in one state, and attempts to identify demographic differences among older youth with disabilities and without disabilities who are aging out of foster care.

Literature Review

Youth with disabilities are overrepresented in child welfare in general (Crosse et al., 1992; Sullivan 6c Knutsen, 2000; Westcott 6c Jones, 1999) and in out-of-home placement specifically (Geenen 6c Powers, 2007; Lightfoot, Hill, 6c LaLiberte, 2011). The topic of youth aging out of foster care is of increasing importance to child welfare practitioners and administrators, policymakers, and researchers; however, the research available on older youth with disabilities in foster care is limited. This literature review will examine the state of the literature on the prevalence of youth with disabilities in the child welfare system as well as the issues with identification of disability in the child welfare system and child welfare research.

Prevalence Literature

It is undeniable that many of the approximately 26,000 young people who age out of the foster care system every year (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 2012) have a disability. Over the past twenty years, studies have found that children and youth with disabilities experience a higher rate of maltreatment than children and youth without disabilities (Crosse et al. …

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