• May/June 2001
  • Vol. 2, No. 3

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Supporting the Transition to Adulthood of Youth in Foster Care

Based on a two-year study funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a new report aims to identify criteria that characterize high-quality practices for helping youth move from foster care to independent living. The report also provides information on programs that meet these suggested criteria.

Promising Practices: Supporting Transition of Youth Served by the Foster Care System was prepared by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement at the University of Southern Maine and the National Resource Center for Youth Services at the University of Oklahoma. This is the first document in a working draft series prepared by the National Foster Care Awareness Project, a consortium of agencies organized by Casey Family Programs.

The research team surveyed 311 independent living programs, conducted in-depth telephone interviews with 20 programs, and visited programs at 7 sites. The team also conducted a literature review and interviewed experts in the field, including youth in foster care.

The report suggests that programs should rest on the following core principles:

  • A Youth Development Philosophy—programs should seek to create an environment and opportunities where young people feel supported and safe
  • Collaboration—programs should seek community involvement to create linkages that will benefit youth both while they are in the program and after they leave it
  • Cultural Competency—programs need to provide services that are compatible with the cultural needs of the youth and families served
  • Relationship Permanency—programs need to help youth forge a permanent connection with relatives or others with whom they have a relationship.

The report suggests that to be successful, programs should provide:

  • A clearly defined life skills instruction component
  • Educational supports aimed at helping youth achieve educational goals
  • An employment component
  • A component that helps youth establish community linkages
  • A supervised independent living component
  • Youth development activities that increase cultural awareness and personal confidence and provide youth opportunities to contribute to the community
  • Health services that prepare youth to manage their own medical/dental/mental health needs
  • Preparation for youth for adulthood counseling activities
  • Comprehensive aftercare services
  • An ongoing training component for program staff
  • An ongoing program evaluation component.

In addition to identifying criteria for successful programs, five key issues were identified as critical for youth transitioning out of foster care: early discharge, housing, health and mental health care, education, and employment.

Since the field of foster care independent living is still young, the authors note the need for testing and evaluation of the suggested practices before they can be recommended as "promising practices" for administrators and policy makers who are assisting foster youth in their transition.

A copy of the report is available online at: http://www.nrcys.ou.edu/yd/resources/publications/pdfs/promising_practices-1.pdf

To obtain a print copy, contact:

National Resource Center for Youth Services
4502 E. 41st St., Bldg. 4 West
Tulsa, OK 74135-2553
Phone: 918-660-3700
Fax: 918-660-3737

Related Item

See "Tuition Waiver Availability for Foster Care Youth" in the June 2000 issue of the Children's Bureau Express.

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