By age 18, 13% of youth in the United States have been identified as victims of at least one incident of child abuse or neglect by Child Protective Services (CPS) and 6% have experienced out-of-home care (OHC). For black youth, these rates are a staggering 21% and 12%. Whereas most youth rely on parents or family members for financial and emotional support during the transition to adulthood, this often is not an option for youth with histories of maltreatment and OHC, whose familial relationships may be fractured. Yet, little of the large body of research on maltreatment and OHC focuses on emerging adulthood, and prior research findings are inconsistent with respect to the potential effects of OHC on later outcomes, highlighting the need to closely examine heterogeneity in OHC experiences. Many characteristics of the OHC experience may affect long term development, including placement type, number of placements, whether youth are reunified, adopted, or remain in OHC until adulthood (?age out? of care). Prior research has often oversimplified this immense diversity in experiences. Better understanding the role of maltreatment and OHC experiences in emerging adulthood will provide new insight into programming and policy decisions for CPS-involved youth. The proposed study will use a statewide, longitudinal, administrative dataset that includes the entire population of CPS-involved youth and youth whose families participated in social welfare benefit programs in Wisconsin to examine how a range of maltreatment and OHC experiences are associated with social, educational, and economic outcomes in emerging adulthood, including employment and earnings, benefit receipt, educational attainment, fertility timing, incarceration, paying close attention to the type(s) of maltreatment experienced as well as OHC placement characteristics (type, length, number of placements) and type of exit from OHC (aging out, reunification or adoption). Finally, we will examine the extent to which young adult parents who experienced childhood CPS involvement or OHC are likely to become the subject of a CPS investigation or OHC placement regarding their own children. This research extends prior work in this area by using multiple identification strategies and comparison (counterfactual) groups to reduce bias in estimated associations of both maltreatment and OHC with subsequent outcomes. It has implications for informing policy and practice to better prepare CPS-involved youth to successfully transition to adulthood and, thereby, for reducing subsequent public expenditures on this population.

Public Health Relevance

This research has implications for informing policy and practice to better prepare child welfare-involved and foster care youth to successfully transition to adulthood by promoting self-sufficiency and supporting social, educational, and economic development. It therefore has the potential to inform interventions to promote health and wellbeing of these vulnerable youth, thereby reducing subsequent public expenditures on this population.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Social Sciences and Population Studies A Study Section (SSPA)
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Esposito, Layla E
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Schools of Social Work
United States
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Font, Sarah A; Cancian, Maria; Berger, Lawrence M (2018) Prevalence and Risk Factors for Early Motherhood Among Low-Income, Maltreated, and Foster Youth. Demography :