The first few months of the coronavirus pandemic took a significant toll on the well-being of former foster youth, according to a new survey that researchers said points to the need to address those effects in the medium and long term.
The survey assessed 127 participants’ perspectives regarding how the pandemic changed their physical, financial, professional, social, relational and psychological levels of concern, the general impact of the shelter-in-place orders and whether they felt they were uniquely impacted as current or former foster youth.
For the young people in the study, those first couple of months “were devastating and resulted in widespread loss, uncertainty, and unprecedented change,” according to authors Saralyn Ruff, an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco and director of the Foster Care Research Group; and Deanna Linville, an associate professor and research scientist at the University of Oregon’s Center for Equity Promotion.
In the area of physical health, almost 32% of the young people reported they were moderately or extremely concerned during the first months of the pandemic, up from 20% before COVID-19 appeared.
Financial worries took a big jump, too. Nearly 45% were moderately or extremely concerned before COVID-19, compared with more than 61% once the public health and economic crisis took hold. When asked whether they thought their finances would have improved a year after the pandemic ended, there was little optimism.
Psychologically, 39% said they had experienced depression or other signs of mental stress during the pandemic, up from 27% previously, and their expectations were not much better for the post-pandemic times.
Ruff and Linville cautioned that their study only “offers a preliminary description” of the effects on this vulnerable group of Americans, but can serve as an “introductory framework from which to build conversation, acknowledge need, and inform resource provision.”
The study, titled “Experiences of Young Adults With a History of Foster Care During COVID-19” and published in Child and Youth Services Review” on Dec. 15, has limited general applicability to all older foster youth because the study group was rather small and composed of predominantly non-white females from California. Further studies could help fill in the knowledge gaps, Ruff and Linville stated.
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Deanna Linville. She is an associate professor and research scientist at the University of Oregon’s Center for Equity Promotion.