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March 2014Vol. 15, No. 3Improving Transition Planning for Youth

Responding to studies that indicate largely negative outcomes for youth who have transitioned out of foster care, researchers in Los Angeles County, CA, embarked on a study to identify best practices for improving transition planning at the departmental, judicial, and caregiver levels. A new publication reports on the work of Court Lab, the research and implementation efforts of the nonprofit group Child Welfare Initiative, which, together with the Children's Law Center of California and The Alliance for Children's Rights, partnered with the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court and the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services to examine existing transition planning practices in order to identify areas for improvement.

Starting in 2011, the Court Lab partners collected data through reviews of court records, observations of court proceedings, and structured interviews with both youth and their caregivers. The data collected revealed deficiencies in youth and caregiver involvement in the transition process, education and employment planning, health-care access, and making permanent adult connections. These observations informed specific policy recommendations, including increasing caregiver involvement in the development and implementation of transition plans; identifying short-term, age-appropriate, and measureable goals for youth that can be evaluated at each 6-month hearing; and improving efforts to connect youth with needed services and supports.

The publication also discusses steps the partners used in implementing the recommendations and provides guidance on how the lessons learned from this initiative can be used as a model for other jurisdictions, both in and outside of California.

An Implementation Guide for Improving Outcomes for Older Foster Youth is available on the website for the Child Welfare Initiative: (2 MB)