Vulnerable Youth

Recent Trends

Posted May 1, 2006
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Child Trends
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AECF Vulnerable Youth 2006 cover


This brief draws upon a 2004 KIDS COUNT® Data Book essay focused on America’s “most disconnected,” or vulnerable youth. By providing more extensive trend data and expanding the definition of “vulnerable” youth, this brief illuminates the specific disadvantages faced by different groups of disconnected young people — and how these trends vary from state to state.

The brief focuses its attention on five specific categories of vulnerable youth: youth ages 15-17 who have been victims of maltreatment during the past year, 2000- 2003; youth ages 15-19 living in foster care, 2000-2003; youth ages 15-19 living in juvenile detention facilities, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003; mothers ages 15-19, 1999-2003; and youth ages 15-19 receiving payments from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, FY 1998–FY 2002.

Before delving into the actual data, the report details the criteria used to designate youth as belonging to one of the aforementioned categories. The report also cautions against direct comparisons between states on a single metric, as different states often have systems that operate with different policies and standards in place. For example, the report notes that it is difficult to compare states based on the incidence of child maltreatment because states have different definitions of child maltreatment, different systems for dealing with reported cases, and different standards of proof for substantiating allegations of maltreatment.

For each group of vulnerable youth, the report outlines overall trends, while highlighting states who saw notable increases or decreases in the respective category.

Finally, the report concludes that trends in the number of vulnerable youth varied across the five measures nationwide. The report also notes that there were substantial differences in trends among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations

Key Takeaway

A focus on five different youth groups linked by one common circumstance — vulnerability

This report looks at five populations of at-risk youth: 1) teen mothers; 2) victims of maltreatment; 3) foster care participants; 4) juvenile detention residents; and 5) recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program payments.