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Dec/Jan 2009Vol. 9, No. 10Evaluation of Two Independent Living Programs

Evaluations of two Los Angeles Independent Living Programs (ILPs) funded under the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) have implications for improving ILPs to better help youth preparing to live independently. Evaluations were recently conducted on the Life Skills Training (LST) program and the Early Start to Emancipation Preparation (ESTEP) Tutoring program.

The LST program is a 5-week curriculum at 19 community colleges designed to help foster youth with seven competency skill areas: education, employment, daily living skills, survival skills, choices and consequences, interpersonal/social skills, and computer/Internet skills. The impact of the LST program was measured by such factors as education, employment, and economic well-being using pre- and posttest assessments with 482 17-year-old foster youth, half of whom participated in LST. Results showed that LST had little or no positive impact on any of the concrete indicators of successful transition to adulthood.

The study's authors suggest that classroom-based ILPs may not be the most effective way to prepare foster youth for the transition to adulthood. Instead, foster youth benefit from numerous sources of independent living assistance, including their biological parents and other family members, teachers and schools, foster parents, and caseworkers.

The ESTEP Tutoring program was created in 1998 to improve the reading and math skills of foster youth. ESTEP Tutoring is provided through 12 community colleges by college student tutors and offered primarily in the foster youths' homes. Among 445 foster youth, approximately half of whom participated in ESTEP Tutoring, there were no significant changes over time in academic grades. In addition, few long-term mentoring relationships developed between foster youths and their tutors.

Results from the ESTEP study highlight the educational difficulties many foster youth continue to face and the need for more evaluation of the services and programs available to this population.

The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 mandated the evaluation of ILPs funded under the CFCIP. To fulfill this mandate, the Children's Bureau contracted with the Urban Institute, Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, and the National Opinion Research Center to evaluate the LST program and the ESTEP Tutoring program. The full evaluations are available on the ACF Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation website:

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For more about ILPs, read "Review of Tools Assessing Independent Living Programs" in this issue.