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Mental Health and Young Adults with a History of Foster Care

Young adults with a history of foster care

In recent years, mental health awareness has become a hot topic but young adults with a history of foster care are often left out of the conversation. While around 20% of the general population of youth experience mental health issues, the number jumps to 80% for youth who have a history of foster care, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In order to best serve this population, there needs to be adequate and accessible resources for all youth with a history of foster care. COMPASS Programs are committed to doing just that. 

There are many factors that contribute to the disproportionate rate that youth with a history of foster care experience mental health issues. Depending on the age of entry in and exit from the foster care system, most youth experience multiple placements in various foster homes and group-home settings. These rapid transitions take a toll on the youth’s mental health as they may have to switch schools and/or move away from their friends and family. Lack of consistency, predictability and meaningful connections can all exacerbate mental health issues and compound on existing trauma.

According to a study by the Journal of Child and Family Studies (JCFS) in 2012, 95% of youth enter the foster care system with exposure to one or more types of traumatic events, with the most common being emotional abuse. This trauma in combination with the instability of being in foster care has a significant impact on mental health, leading to poor outcomes like dropping out of school, struggling to obtain employment, and increased levels of substance abuse. 

By the time they reach adulthood, over 21% of foster care alumni are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), compared with about 4% of the general population. Youth with a history of foster care also experience higher rates of depression, social phobia, anxiety and panic disorder, drug and alcohol dependence, and eating disorders than their non-foster peers, according to the same JCFS study. 

COMPASS Programs at David & Margaret uses a holistic approach to wellness to support young adults in the program. By providing affordable housing, paid job training, and educational support these young adults have the stability they need to focus on their mental health and their futures. Participants in the COMPASS Programs also have access to an on-site clinical therapist in addition to linkages to other mental health services they need from the community. With the introduction of the COMPASS Point Drop-In Center, these young adults always have a safe space where they can receive services, take advantage of amenities like a gym, a full kitchen, and a computer lab, socialize with peers, and be supported by a welcoming community. By providing comprehensive care that addresses both physical and emotional needs, the young adults at COMPASS Programs have the ability to earn post-secondary degrees, obtain fulfilling employment, and learn ways to cope with trauma and other mental health issues. 

COMPASS Programs is now accepting applicants! If you or someone you know could benefit from the services offered through COMPASS Programs, email or talk to your case manager to start the application process! 

Our Impact This Year

  • Youth & Families Served


  • Youth Internship Hours


  • Housing Provided


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