• Dec 2011/Jan 2012
  • Vol. 12, No. 9

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Independent Living Program Evaluations Released

Four new evaluations of John Chafee Foster Care Independence Programs (CFCIP) highlight the need for continued research on the resources available to transitioning youth to improve outcomes. Each of the programs centers on youth preparing to transition from foster care to independence.

The evaluations, which are mandated by the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, were conducted by the Children's Bureau and the Urban Institute and its partners—the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago and the National Opinion Research Center. They focus on Independent Living programs in California and Massachusetts between September 2001 and September 2010. Both short- and long-term impacts were evaluated, with a primary focus on assessing effectiveness on key outcomes, including increased educational attainment; higher employment rates and stability; greater interpersonal and relationship skills; reduced pregnancy rates; and reduced delinquency and crime rates. Participating youth were assigned to either intervention or control groups and surveyed at three points over the course of the evaluation via interviews and focus groups.

The four programs evaluated include the following:

  • The Independent Living Employment Services Program (IL-ES) is modeled on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families work development assistance and is an encouragement-based model. The evaluation sample consisted of 254 youth who turned 16 between September 2003 and July 2006 or who entered care during that time and were already 16.
  • The Massachusetts Adolescent Outreach Program for Youths in Intensive Foster Care (Outreach) assists foster youth in preparing to transition from care by pairing participants with an Outreach worker to focus on obtaining a high school diploma, gaining employment, and continuing education while avoiding teenage pregnancy, incarceration, and homelessness. The 194 participants were required to have a service plan goal of independent living or long-term substitute care.
  • The Early Start to Emancipation Preparation (ESTEP)-Tutoring Program offered one-on-one tutoring to improve reading and math skills of foster youth aged 14 and 15 who were 3 years behind their grade levels in either subject. Of the 445 youth in the analytical sample, more than 61 percent of ESTEP participants received an average of 18 hours of math and 17 hours of reading tutoring.
  • The Life Skills Training (LST) Program was a 5-week series of 10 3-hour classes held twice a week in 19 community colleges. The program focused on education, employment, daily living, interpersonal, social, and computer skills. In the LST group (234 participants), 70 percent attended at least one class and 65 percent graduated.

While each program failed to demonstrate significant outcomes improvement, each gained valuable insight for future research needed to understand the types of services available to transitioning youth and the effectiveness of those services. The Outreach evaluation specifically sheds light on the need for research on the connection between receiving assistance and achieving outcomes. 

The reports can be downloaded from the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation website:

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/chafee/index.html

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