The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

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

Emerging Adults in Child Welfare: Evidence From Illinois

Friday, January 17, 2014: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 102A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Symposium Organizer:
Clark M. Peters, PhD, JD, MSW, University of Missouri-Columbia
For young adults involved with the child welfare system, reaching 18 brings more than legal adulthood. As they enter the age of majority, their relationship with the state changes in fundamental ways. Many states effectively end care at that age, while others struggle to keep youths engaged with services. Youths themselves often express ambivalence about remaining involved in a system that seems designed to care for young children rather than their own complex needs. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that extending care improves outcomes for this vulnerable population. Since the passage of federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which for the first time provides reimbursement to states for the cost of extending care past age 18, the number of states extending care has more than doubled. Illinois has long been a leader in supporting foster youth entering adulthood, and states expanding services beyond 18 may look to the state as a model.

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.

* noted as presenting author
Time to Exit From Care During the Transition to Adulthood: Who Stays and Who Leaves?
Judy Havlicek, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Clark M. Peters, PhD, JD, MSW, University of Missouri-Columbia
Re-Entering Foster Care As An Adult: Examining Recent Legislation and Population Characteristics
Clark M. Peters, PhD, JD, MSW, University of Missouri-Columbia; Judy Havlicek, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Betty Hope, MSW, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
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