Survey Underway on Foster Youth Experience During Coronavirus

Foster care researchers in San Francisco are surveying as many current and recent American foster youth as they can to find out what they need and want in the age of the coronavirus and beyond. 

They hope to use the data to inform lawmakers, social service providers and others who work with the vulnerable population, said Saralyn Ruff, director of the Foster Care Research Group at the University of San Francisco. USF is partnering on the project with A Home Within, a national nonprofit based in San Francisco that provides psychological counseling to current and former foster kids.

“Too often research is based on information from third-parties such as case managers or foster parents, due to barriers in access with the youth themselves,” Ruff said in an email. “Many researchers are doing great work to change this, but more is needed. I wanted to increase foster youth’s agency and voice when trying to understand impact and need during COVID-19.”

The researchers say they also hope to learn about how the youths’ views change over time. For example, what their concerns were before the disease hit, what they are now and what they think they might be later.

Some surveys of current and former foster youth have surfaced some alarming concerns as the pandemic took hold in America. On March 20, amid the first full week of shutdowns in many states, the nonprofit Think of Us announced that responses from 1,400 young people showed food security to be the most pressing issue, trailed by housing and health care. 

A survey of recently aged-out foster youth by the national group FosterClub, released on March 27, garnered 172 responses and found that 40 percent had been forced to move out of their home or feared it would happen soon. 

“I am hoping for a larger sample across the U.S. so I can look at how possible differences in (shelter-in-place) protocol, regulations and resource availability may affect well-being,” Ruff said. “Whether we get 50 responses or 5,000, I think there will be an important story to be told.”

Just what happens with the survey results depend on what they reveal,” she said. “We have never been through anything like this before, so I will let the results take the lead.”

CLICK HERE for a link to the 20-minute online survey.

Chuck Carroll is a freelance journalist and editor working with The Chronicle.

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