Youth with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system (Crosse, Kaye, & Ratnofsky, 1992; Sullivan & Knutson, 2000). Although research on this topic is limited, youth with disabilities who are emancipating from foster care are at risk for particularly poor outcomes, experiencing even lower rates of employment, educational attainment, and economic stability than their non-disabled peers who are aging out of care (Anctil, McCubbin, O'Brien, & Pecora, 2007a; Anctil, McCubbin, O'Brien, Pecora, & Anderson-Harumi, 2007b; Zetlin, 2006). Using state administrative data, the study compares youth with disabilities emancipating from foster care to their non-disabled peers, examining prevalence and demographics, as well as differences between the two groups in key education, child welfare, and disability-specific variables. It examines how transition outcomes in the areas of secondary and postsecondary education and adult corrections differ for youth with and without disabilities who have aged out of foster care. Finally, it examines the relationship between the identified transition outcomes and the key predictor variables in the areas of education, child welfare, and disability-specific services.
Analysis found significant differences between youth with disabilities and their non-disabled peers who have aged out of foster care. Youth with disabilities are more likely to be male, Native American, or Asian than their non-disabled peers. They experience different permanency plans and are less likely to access child welfare transition services. All of the youth experienced high rates of placement instability, and youth with disabilities appeared to experience slightly higher rates. Youth with disabilities were placed in juvenile corrections and/or residential treatment prior to finishing high school in greater numbers than their non-disabled peers. However, they were also more likely to attend school regularly. Youth with disabilities were less likely to graduate from high school, less likely to be enrolled in postsecondary education and training, and more likely to appear in the adult correctional system. Additionally, child welfare transition services were associated with negative adult school completion outcomes, such as increased risk for drop out for youth both with and without disabilities. Thus, it is critical that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners improve their expertise, programming, and focus on older youth with disabilities in the child welfare system.