The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

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

The National Foster Youth Action Network's (NFYAN) Advocacy Trainings Project: A Multi-State Evaluation of Positive Youth Development

Friday, January 17, 2014: 11:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 001B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Toni Naccarato, PhD, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
Janet Knipe, MA, Executive Director, National Foster Youth Action Network, San Francisco, CA
Background and Purpose:  Studies have found that youth transitioning out of foster care have risk factors. Because these youth are vulnerable, innovative programs that build leadership and advocacy skills and enhance positive youth development should be created and empirically tested. Although foster youth have expertise and knowledge of the foster care system, many policy makers have never heard their experiences or sought their input.  

The current study collected data from the NFYAN’s intensive, year round leadership and advocacy trainings to youth members in six states. Participants and trainers in the intervention are current and former foster youth between the ages of 14-25 years.  The study evaluates the personal impact of participating in this intervention by individual youth.  The intervention is delivered through training retreats that vary in length and topics, but are typically offered over 2 to 3 days with an average of 8 hours of instruction per weekend.  The youth average 3 to 5 different trainings annually offering the opportunity for longitudinal analysis.  The hypothesis was that the intervention would increase the youth’s outcome scores on the following scales regarding:  1)  identity affiliation (IA); 2)  identity search (IS);  3)  civic activism (CA);  4)  self-efficacy (SE);  5)  community supports (CS); and 6)  supports and opportunities (SO).


Method:  A quasi-experimental pre-test post-test design was used.  The youth completed a survey that focuses on demographics, personal impact, and training efficacy prior to and at the end of the training.  These data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and dependent sample t-tests to determine whether there was a difference in pre- and post-test scores.  All measures were based on a 4-point Likert scale.  All scales had Chronbach’s a > .86, which indicates strong internal consistency.  The youth were involved in survey development and data collection.    

Results:  Wave 1 data were collected on 253 youth, 69.2% from  California, 15.8% from Oregon, 2.8% from Washington, 8.5% from Nebraska, 2.8% from Indiana, and .8% from Massachusetts (n=247).  Approximately, 48.2% were males and 51.1% were female (n=249).  The majority of the youth identified as Caucasian (29.8%), then African-American (23.4%), Latino, (22.2%), Bi-racial (16.1%), Asian (2.8%), and Other (5.6%) (n=248).  The mean age was 19.47 years.  The average number of months in care was 84.02 (n=242).  The mean number of placements was 7.36 (n=243).  All scales yielded statistical significance except for CS.  The results are as follows:  IA (t = -5.371, df 234, p = .000); IS (t = -9.111, df 233, p = .000); CA (t = -6.1114, df 231, p = .000); SE (t = -5.824, df 234, p = .000); and SO (t = -5.184, df 205, p = .000).

Implications: This NFYAN training model is the only national program for transitioning foster youth that is youth led and based on youth organizing and development principles.  The information analyzed thus far strongly supports that youth are positively impacted through their participation in the intervention.  This approach offers lessons to be learned for future studies engaging current and former foster youth in practice, policy, and research activities.