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June 2009Vol. 10, No. 5Lighthouse Independent Living Program Bridges Gap for Adolescents

Aging out of the foster care system provides a multitude of real-life challenges for youth, including completing a GED program or high school, finding a job, and securing housing. A recent study describes the Lighthouse Independent Living program as offering the necessary "bridge" between foster care and the real world for former foster youth in southeastern Ohio. Researchers examined the effectiveness of the Lighthouse program, the characteristics of the youth served, and the types of services they received.

According to the study, the Lighthouse program follows three guiding principles:

  • Foster youth need time to adjust to the real world and have opportunities to make mistakes while receiving the support of caring adults.
  • The 10-month transition period currently allotted to emancipating youth is inadequate.
  • Housing-based independent living programs should allow for the full range of mistakes their clients may make.

Following these principles, the Lighthouse program offers housing and other supports to youth so that they can make a gradual adjustment to real-world independence. Between 2001 and 2006, 455 youth entered the program. The following outcome data indicate that the program made a substantive difference in the lives of many of these teens:

  • At discharge, 60 percent had completed high school or a GED program.
  • Thirty-one percent were employed.
  • Thirty-three percent were independently housed.

Researchers also found that certain youth characteristics were correlated with specific outcomes. For instance, clients who entered the program between the ages of 19 and 20 were more successful after discharge than clients who entered at younger ages. Also, clients who entered with one or two risk factors showed better outcomes in employment and housing than clients who entered with no risk factors or more than two.

To access the full study, “Lighthouse Independent Living Program: Characteristics of Youth Served and Their Outcomes at Discharge,” by Mark J. Kroner and Alvin S. Mares, published in The Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 31(5), visit the Elsevier website: