• November 2017
  • Vol. 18, No. 8

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Using Adolescent Brain Research to Inform Child Welfare Practice, Improve Youth Outcomes

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative finds that child welfare systems have a significant opportunity to improve outcomes for young people by letting adolescent brain research inform their work with youth.

The report includes an overview of the latest research on adolescent brain development and its implications and provides overall strategies for professionals, caregivers, and systems on how to navigate this impressionable time in a youth's life, including the following:

  • Be consistent in relationships with young people, emphasizing compassion and a positive outlook regarding their future and abilities
  • Be clear and honest about expectations and consequences if those expectations are not met
  • Help youth deal with the loss of relationships, whether it be caseworkers lost to turnover or peers lost as a result of a move
  • Celebrate big and small achievements
  • Talk with young people about what is going on in the brain and help them understand the changes they are going through
  • Have empathetic conversations about any real or perceived racism or discrimination they might have faced
  • Encourage the novelty experiences young people crave, such as going to new places and learning to drive¬†

The report also includes several examples of successful state and local programs that support youth as they transition into adulthood, such as the Youth Circle Program in Hawaii, which supports transition planning, and Florida's Keys to Independence Program, which helps provide youth in foster care access to driver's education and the opportunity to earn a driver's license.

The report, The Road to Adulthood: Aligning Child Welfare Practice With Adolescent Brain Development, is available at http://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-theroadtoadulthood-2017.pdf (3,200 KB).


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