- June 2010
- Vol. 11, No. 5
Areas Where Transitioning Youth Need Services
In the effort to achieve independent adulthood, youth who age out of foster care have, in general, four possible avenues of life experience as they struggle to make it on their own long before the majority of their peers. These subgroups are identified in the latest issue brief from the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth (Midwest Study): Distinct Subgroups of Former Foster Youth During Young Adulthood: Implications for Policy and Practice. The study's goal is to provide States with the first comprehensive view of how former foster youth are faring since the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 became law.
The study has been following 732 youth from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Findings in this issue brief are from the fourth wave of data collected from interviews conducted with 584 youth when they were 23 and 24 years old.
Researchers took into consideration the youths' experiences in the following transition domains:
- Living arrangement
- Educational attainment
- Current employment
- Conviction of a crime since leaving foster care
Based on indicators, the four classes of former foster youth are:
- Accelerated Adults (36.3 percent): 63 percent female; most likely to live on their own, to have a college degree, and to be employed; nearly half with resident children
- Struggling Parents (25.2 percent): Nearly three-quarters female; nearly all have one living, resident child; most likely to be married or cohabiting; least likely to have graduated high school or attend college; lowest rate of employment; 70.7 percent receiving food stamps
- Emerging Adults (21.1 percent): about half male; living in settings that are not their own, with second-highest rates of college attendance and employment and the lowest rate of criminal conviction; most likely to avoid hardship
- Troubled and Troubling (17.5 percent): mostly male; most likely to be incarcerated, homeless, unemployed; about 20 percent not graduated high school; 80 percent convicted of criminal charges since age 18
Researchers propose that these distinct subgroups support the call for more targeted policy and practice for youth to help them handle the challenges of moving into adulthood from foster care. The Fostering Connections Act, which allows youth to remain in foster care past age 18, may provide a policy framework to support effective social work practices for these youth.
The issue brief, by Mark E. Courtney, Jennifer L. Hook, and JoAnn S. Lee, can be downloaded from Chapin Hall Center for Children:
http://chapinhall.org/sites/default/files/publications/Midwest_IB4_Latent_Class.pdf (PDF - 404 KB)
Children's Bureau Express has published other stories about the Midwest Study and the well-being of children in foster care:
- "Transitioning From Foster Care to Adulthood: Three Studies" (May 2008)
- "How Courts Can Help Keep Foster Youth in Care Beyond Age 18" (October 2008)
- "Transitioning Youth: A Longitudinal Study" (May 2006)
- "Foster Youth Receive Some, Not All, Independent Living Services They Need" (May 2004)
Youth-serving organizations can find a wealth of information on the FindYouthInfo.gov website, created by the Federal Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). The IWGYP provides resources for effective youth programs on the website and also identifies promising and effective strategies and promotes enhanced collaboration to achieve healthy outcomes for youth. The IWGYP is composed of 12 Federal agencies that support youth services.