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Foster youth and drug use: Exploring risk and protective factors

Barn, R and Tan, JP (2015) Foster youth and drug use: Exploring risk and protective factors. Children and Youth Services Review, 56. pp. 107-115. ISSN 0190-7409

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Abstract

Substance use and misuse experiences of foster youth remain an under-researched area. Given that early use of drugs is said to be a common factor among 90% of those who develop substance misuse problems in their lifetime, this is an important area of academic study (. Dennis, White, & Ives, 2009). By drawing upon primary empirical data from a mixed-methods study, this paper addresses an important gap in the literature and seeks to provide an improved understanding of foster youth, drug use and vulnerability. A total of 261 foster youth, who had exited care, contributed to a quantitative survey, and a further 35 provided qualitative narratives of their lived experience. Key risk factors including experience of homelessness, school exclusion and living setting are identified as strong influences that predict high levels of drug use among foster youth. Targeted social support and interventions in the form of pre-leaving care in the context of a strong practitioner/youth relationship are suggested to help ameliorate poor outcomes to obviate the problem of substance misuse among foster youth.

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