Living Situations and Social Support in the Era of Extended Foster Care: A View from the U.S.

Nathanael J Okpych, Huiling Feng, Keunhye Park, Adrianna Torres-García, Mark Courtney


Social support is important for promoting resiliency and decreasing the occurrence and impact of negative life events as foster youth transition to adulthood. However, the types and amount of support may vary by where youth are placed. Additionally, it is not known whether state policies that extend the foster care age limit beyond age 18 are associated with greater social support. This paper examines how types and sources of social support vary by youths’ foster care placement and foster care status at age 19. Data come from the CalYOUTH Study, a representative sample of youths in California foster care where 611 participants were interviewed at ages 17 and 19. Information was gathered on youths’ perceived adequacy of three types of social support (emotional, tangible, and advice/guidance) and their sources of support (family, peers, and professionals). Overall, a third or more of the particpants reported having inadequate support in each of the three support domains, which calls for renewed efforts to ensure that foster youth have adults they can rely on as they transition to adulthood regardless of where they happen to be living. After controlling for prior social support and other characteristics, youth in foster homes with relatives had less contact with professionals than did youth in other placements. In-care youth were more likely than out-of-care youth to have adequate advice and tangible support and to identify a professional as a support. These findings provide early support for the role of extended care in linking youth to important social resources.


Foster care; Social support; Transition to adulthood; Living arrangement

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Copyright (c) 2018 Nathanael J Okpych, Huiling Feng, Keunhye Park, Adrianna Torres-García, Mark Courtney