Early Findings from the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH)
Saturday, January 17, 2015: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
La Galeries 6, Second Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Mark E. Courtney, PhD, University of Chicago
The transition to adulthood can be particularly challenging for young people in foster care (Barth, 1990; Collins, 2001; Cook et al, 1991; Courtney, 2009; Courtney et al, 2011; Festinger, 1983; McMillen et al, 2005; Pecora et al, 2005). Many of these young adults are unable to turn to their parents or other family members for financial and/or emotional support. Nor, in most jurisdictions, can they count on government for continuing support beyond their 18th
birthday. Recently there has been a fundamental shift toward greater government responsibility for supporting foster youths’ transitions to adulthood. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (“Fostering Connections Act”) allows states to claim federal reimbursement for the costs of foster care maintenance payments made on behalf of eligible foster youth until they are 21 years old. Crucially, states have the option
to extend care but are not required to do so. AB 12, the California Fostering Connections to Success Act, extends foster care to age 21 for eligible youth. California is arguably the most important early adopter of the new policy. It has the largest foster care population in the US and its approach to extending care is particularly ambitious and inclusive, making it an important case study (Mosley & Courtney, 2012). Many other states will be required to implement, in some form, the kinds of changes in law and regulation being implemented in California. Child welfare agencies, courts, other public institutions, and voluntary sector service providers will need to adapt to providing care and supervision to adults, something with which they may have limited or no experience.
The California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH) is evaluating the implementation and impact of California’s extension of foster care to age 21. The CalYOUTH study design calls for interviews with young people making the transition to adulthood from care at approximately 17, 19, and 21 years of age, periodic surveys of caseworkers supervising extended foster care, and qualitative study of youths’ living arrangements. Baseline interviews were conducted in 2013 with a stratified (by county size) statewide random sample of youth between 16.75 and 17.75 years old who had been in care for at least six months (n = 727; 95% response rate). A statewide survey of a random sample of caseworkers (n = 235; 90% response rate) was also completed in 2013. Lastly, 61 young adults participated in focus groups and in-depth interviews concerning their living arrangements in 2013. Taking advantage of the rich data generated to date by CalYOUTH, this symposium includes presentations on topics relevant to providing extended foster care to young adults: description of the physical, mental, and behavioral health status of the youth; analysis of the social support networks of the youth; qualitative data on the quality of living arrangements for young adults in extended care; and, child welfare workers’ perceptions of the needs of transition-age youth and challenges to implementing extended care. Our findings have implications for states’ efforts to implement the older youth provisions of the Fostering Connections Act.
* noted as presenting author