• May 2006
  • Vol. 7, No. 4

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Transitioning Youth: A Longitudinal Study

Youth making the transition from foster care to independence face a number of significant challenges and tend to fare worse than their same-age peers, according to a longitudinal study by the Chapin Hall Center for Children. To date, two waves of data have been collected on youth transitioning from foster care to independence in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

The first wave of data, collected when the youth were 17 and still in foster care, revealed that many of the youth had a number of health and mental health problems, and a significant number were involved with the juvenile justice system. In addition, many were not prepared to finish high school.

The second wave of data, collected when the youth were 19, found that these youth continued to contend with health and mental health problems and educational deficits. Most suffered economic hardships because they were either unemployed or not able to live on their earnings. However, there were differences between those who aged out of the child welfare system at age 18 and those who were permitted to remain for a few more years. For instance, youth who were still in the child welfare system at age 19 were more likely to:

  • Receive more independent living services to help them transition to adulthood
  • Progress in their education
  • Have access to health and mental health services
  • Have a decreased risk of economic hardship and criminal justice system involvement

While this study is ongoing, these results from the second wave of data suggest that allowing youth to remain in foster care past age 18 may confer significant advantages.

These studies, written by M. E. Courtney et al., consist of working papers on each of the three States, as well as full reports on each wave of data. They can be found on the Chapin Hall website:

www.chapinhall.org/research/report/midwest-evaluation-adult-functioning-former-foster-youth

Related Item

Children's Bureau Express last wrote about Chapin Hall's Midwest Evaluation in "Foster Youth Receive Some, Not All, Independent Living Services They Need" (May 2004).

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