Purpose: Although street-involved and homeless youth report pregnancy at higher rates, there is almost no research about street-involved teen fathers. We examined the background and current situation of street-involved youth in Western Canada who were
fathers compared to their street-involved peers without children.
Methods: Secondary analysis of the 9-city 2006 British Columbia Street Youth Health Survey, (N 762, 48% male, ages 12 to 18 years). Chi Square and t-tests tested differences between street involved fathers (n 38) and non-fathers (n 314). Measures included demographics, housing situation in past 30 days, chronic conditions, school attendance, Sources of past-month income, substance use in the past 30 days, access to drug treatment services, and where youth see themselves in 5 years.
Results: Street-involved fathers were almost a year older on average (M 17.36 vs.16.36, t -5.15, p.001), but, they began their street involvement at younger ages (M 11.6 years vs.12.8 years, t 2.41, p.05). Most reported their children lived with relatives (46.3%), but 17.1% lived with them, and 14.6% in foster care. Non-fathers were more likely to have lived with parents in the last thirty days than fathers (50.6% vs. 23.7%, ?2 9.87, p.05), while fathers were more likely to report precarious housing, i.e., on the street (36.8% vs. 19.1%, , p.05) or in a tent (23.3% vs. 8.6%, p.001). Street-involved fathers were more likely to have been told they have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (26.9% vs. 10.0%, ?2 6.81, p.05). Street-involved fathers were less likely to be currently attending school (37.9% vs. 60.3%; ?2 5.42, = p.05). However, they were more likely to report working in a legal job than non-fathers (58.8% vs. 40.7%; ?2 4.03, p.05), or to obtain money from income assistance (19.5% vs. 9.5%; ?24.19, p.05) and from being a ward of the courts than non-fathers (12.2% vs. 2.7%; ?28.77, p.05). Street-involved fathers reported a higher prevalence of recent illicit drug use compared to non fathers for several drugs, including crystal meth (26.3% vs. 9.2%, ?2 8.39, p.05), inhalants (16.7% vs. 5.7%, ?2 6.05, p.05), ketamine (18.6% vs. 4.1%, ?2 12.45, p.001) and heroin (21.1% vs. 7.3%, ?2 7.95, p.005). However, street-involved fathers were also more likely to have accessed some form of substance abuse treatment, including detox (24.3% vs. 9.0%, ?2 7.91, p.005) and inpatient treatment centres (16.2% vs. 6.5%, ?2 4.36, p.05). Given these higher challenges, it was not surprising that street-involved fathers were more pessimistic about their future; they were significantly more likely to expect to be dead in five years (31.6% vs. 9.2% non-fathers; ?2 16.44, p.001) .
Conclusions: Street-involved fathers face a number life challenges and health inequities. For street-involved youth who are fathers, social services need to understand the complex background of the young men. FAS, a diminished sense of future, and substance use provide challenges, but street-involved fathers’ involvement in services and employment may provide opportunities for engagement and support.