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May 2009Vol. 10, No. 4Results of the Foster Youth Demonstration Project

A new report by the Institute for Educational Leadership presents the final evaluation of a demonstration project designed to improve employment outcomes for youth exiting foster care. Funded for 2 years by the Employment and Training Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor, demonstration projects were awarded to five jurisdictions in States with the largest number of youth in foster care: Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; New York, NY; and Houston, TX.

A mix of child welfare, workforce development, and education providers acted as the lead service provider at the five sites. Although each site was unique in its program design and implementation, all sites provided school, job, and college preparation as well as a variety of support services to current and former foster youth. The final evaluation of the project was based on up to 27 months of individual participant data from the sites, as well as information gathered from two rounds of site visits and telephone interviews with key representatives.

Collectively, the sites served over 1,000 youth, most of whom were 17 or older and African-American. Almost half of the youth received services for 21 months or longer. Youth who received services for a longer period of time were more likely to achieve positive outcomes, such as earning a high school diploma or GED, attending postsecondary education, or securing employment. Youth who were 17 years or older, in postsecondary education, or in independent living at the time they entered the program also were more likely to achieve these positive outcomes.

The authors of the report identified several success factors for programs serving current and former foster youth:

  • Supportive staff relationships with youth
  • Adaptability of program design and services
  • Workforce stability
  • Cross-agency partnerships
  • Job placement services for youth
  • Well-defined management information systems

The report also makes recommendations to State and local policymakers and practitioners for improving services for youth aging out of the foster care system. The authors stress the importance of using a multi-system approach when serving youth, as well as the value of hiring specialists to work directly with youth. Other areas for improvement include defining program models, establishing comprehensive outcome measures, offering technical assistance, and achieving sustainability.

Download the full report, Foster Youth Demonstration Project: Final Evaluation Report, on the Casey Family Programs website: (613 KB)