Emerging Adults in Child Welfare: Evidence From Illinois
With the nascent recognition of “emerging adulthood” as a distinct developmental stage, evidence suggests that child welfare systems seeking to extend care successfully must do so with careful attention to the special needs of these young people. The studies featured in this symposium involve three unique samples and methods that address a range of concerns regarding emerging adults in care. The first study uses administrative data to examine young people who remain in care and identify the characteristics associated with early and late exit. The second study explores the qualitative experiences of young people, workers, and administrators in an independent living program serving emerging adults in Illinois. The study illuminates the nature of relationships between workers and youths – which can promote positive outcomes – and the impact of disruptions of these relationships. The final study examines the experience of the state in the early stages of implementing legislation that allows youths to return to care after their case has closed, legislation enacted by an increasing number of states.
The symposium examines the changing landscape of child welfare services for emerging adults, and the papers advance the field’s understanding of the challenges involved in successfully extending state care. In exploring the experience of a state with a history of seeking to serve the needs of young adults in care, the symposium also identifies priorities for future research as other states extend care beyond 18.