The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Time to Exit From Care During the Transition to Adulthood: Who Stays and Who Leaves?

Friday, January 17, 2014: 2:30 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 102A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Judy Havlicek, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Clark M. Peters, PhD, JD, MSW, Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO

The goal of this study is to examine the time to exit, and the factors that are related to increased or decreased time in substitute care.  Research finds aging out foster youth are poorly prepared to make the transition to adulthood.  They are twice as likely to be ‘disconnected’ from employment/education, and six times more likely to experience homelessness than same aged youth in the general population.  Research also suggests that foster youth who remain in substitute care past the age of majority tend to fare better on a range of outcomes than those who do not.  At age 19, they are more likely to be enrolled in college, to receive a mental health service, and to be housed.  Since the passage of federal legislation under the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which reimburses states (for the first time) for the costs of extending care past age 18, the number of states extending independent living policy has more than doubled.  Because Illinois has been a leader in supporting foster youth in adulthood, states extending independent living policy may look to Illinois as a model. Understanding who stays and who leaves has important implications for ensuring that critical protections during the transition to adulthood are expanded to all those who may be in need.


This study involves a secondary data analysis of state child welfare administrative data from the state of Illinois.  A cohort of foster youth who reached the age of majority in FY 2007 is selected from state administrative data based upon the following study criteria: 1) In care at age 17; 2) In care for 1-year; 3) Turned 18-years in care; and 4) Entered care due to child abuse/neglect.  There are 801 foster youth that meet sample selection criteria.  The outcome of interest is the first exit (emancipation) from substitute care that occurs past age 18 and no later than age 21.  Because the analyses focus on the timing of emancipation from substitute care, we estimate an accelerated failure time hazard (AFT) model.   The best fitting parametric model appeared to be log-normal, which was parameterized in the AFT metric.


Between ages 17 and 21, the mean time to exit is 3.4 years.  Youth residing in Cook County had a prolonged survival time – an expansion of time to failure – whereas youth with a run prior to age 17 experienced a contract of time to failure.


IIllinois continues to work to improve its response for emerging adults in care, and a recent transition to a fee-for-services system has provided new challenges. Advocates and policymakers have called for enhanced efforts to develop an effective and coordinated response to those who are arguably in the greatest need of support.