A significant number of former foster care residents wind up homeless or in prison, according to a survey by the state Senate Office of Research and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
More than 2,500 male and female prison inmates who were due for parole were surveyed. Fourteen percent were former foster care children.
“There were 171,000 inmates incarcerated in California’s prison system in 2008,” the survey reported. More than 350 respondents, who served time, said they had “been in foster care homes and group homes at some point in their lives.”
In the report, “31 percent of the males, and 35 percent of the females” lived in foster care.
A larger number of inmates lived in group homes. Fifty-two percent of male and 45 percent of female respondents spent time in these facilities.
The report suggests that inmates with a foster care history may need programs tailored to their particular experiences. It also suggests that children be allowed to remain in foster care up to age 21. They are now excluded, in most cases, at age 18.
It was reported that 41 percent of men lived in foster care one to five years. Forty percent of the females stayed in these facilities for more than five years.
Seventy percent of those surveyed were between 13 and 19 years old when they left foster care.
Twenty-one percent of the males reportedly left because they reached the foster care age limit of 18 years. Fifteen percent were females, according to the report.
One category in the survey revealed the amount of time between leaving foster care and going to prison. It showed more than 49 percent of the male and female inmates entered prison more than five years after leaving foster care. Fifty-five percent were men.
One important statistic had the number for males and females who left foster care before turning 18-years-old. The report revealed 35 percent of the females’ surveyed left foster care because they “reunified with family before reaching age 18,” while 30 percent of the males reconnected with their family before reaching 18.
Another startling statistic showed 33 percent of females “ran away from foster care,” compared to 11 percent for males.
In the report, males and females who aged out of the system were asked to describe their housing arrangements after leaving foster care. Fifty-two percent of the females said they “had a place to stay for one year or more.” Six women interviewed were “homeless with no plan for housing” after leaving foster care. Thirty-five percent of males said they had housing for at least a year, but 26 men went homeless with no plan for housing after leaving foster care.
“Of the surveyed inmates who had either aged out or run away from their foster care arrangement, slightly more than one-third (36 percent) of the male and female inmates had been homeless at some point during the first year on their own. A higher percentage of females (43 percent) compared to males (35 percent) reported being without a home during their first year after foster care,” the report states.
Latino males made up 34 percent of California’s population in 2008, but made up the largest percentage (39%) of men in prison in 2008. Sixty-six Latinos interviewed for the study had lived in foster care.
The report showed black males made up only six percent of the overall population of California in 2008, but comprised 29 percent of the prison system. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed lived in foster care before going to prison.
According to the report, white men made up 45 percent of California’s population in 2008. They made up 26 percent of the prison population that year. Thirty-one percent said they “lived in foster care before going to prison.”
“Policymakers could improve and develop new services for foster care teens who are trying to navigate their paths to independence – particularly services that could more effectively help ward off potential interactions with the criminal justice system,” the report concludes.