Homeless or Not? Which Way Foster Youth Will Go

By United Way of King County, on June 17, 2015 | In Helping Students Graduate

Every year hundreds of King County’s young people celebrate their birthday by “aging out” of the foster care system. The stats tell us that 1 in 4 will be homeless within a year. Not exactly a party.

Thanks to groundbreaking research made possible by your support, we now have the data to tell us which kids are on a path to homelessness and how to help them.

Oh no—we feel boring data talk coming…

“Data isn’t super sexy to talk about,” said Courtney Noble, United Way’s youth homelessness impact manager. “But it shows us what youth need and how we can keep improving our work.”

How the research works:

  1. We look at data from a range of state systems youth are part of, including child welfare, education, housing, behavioral health, juvenile justice and public assistance.
  2. We look at risk factors, such as having experienced multiple school moves or having a baby while in foster care.
  3. Result: Overall homelessness risk score.

Not pretty? The good news is we look at factors that decrease the risk of becoming homeless too. These include having had foster care placement with a relative and having a high GPA in school. These subtract from an individual’s overall score. And they give us a better overall view of what young people are dealing with and what they need.

The full report reveals that youth whose risk score is at or above a certain number are likely to experience homelessness within 12 months of aging out of foster care.

The report was funded by a grant from the Administration for Children and Families and allows staff to focus United Way’s investments. Vince Matulionis, United Way’s director of ending homelessness, said, “By zeroing in on the causes of homelessness for these kids, we’re able to make donor dollars work harder and see more results.”


What’s next in this work? The All-Star Softball Classic for Youth.


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