There is a growing appreciation of the relationship between adversities during childhood, particularly childhood abuse and neglect, and risk of homelessness during young adulthood. Homeless adults retrospectively self-report higher rates of history of maltreatment and foster care placements than the general population. Prospectively, between 11% and 46% of maltreated youth who age out of the foster care system experience homelessness during young adulthood.
Childhood maltreatment is associated with a variety of negative outcomes, including homelessness. This study used linked administrative records to develop a population-level, epidemiological characterization of the child protection histories of young adults accessing homelessness services. The records of all 17- to 24-year-olds receiving homeless services between 2011 and 2014 in San Francisco County, California were probabilistically linked to statewide child protective service (CPS) records.
Findings document that 50.0% of young adults had been reported for maltreatment at least once during childhood, yet the prevalence of past CPS involvement varied across groups. Homeless female youth were significantly more likely to have a CPS history than male youth (58.1% vs. 41.5%). Nearly twice as many black clients accessing homelessness services had a CPS history as did white clients (59.8% vs. 31.8%). Roughly half (47.3%) of those with a childhood history of reported maltreatment had been last reported for maltreatment in another county in the state. Targeting services that address past trauma and instability among homeless young adults may be justified given the prevalence of CPS history in this population.