Abstract: Predictors of School Outcomes Among Dually Involved Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

302P Predictors of School Outcomes Among Dually Involved Youth

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Yoonsook Ha, PhD, MSSW, Assistant Professor, Boston University, Boston, MA
Thomas Byrne, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston University, Boston, MA
Margaret M.C. Thomas, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Boston University, Boston, MA
Mengni Yao, MSW, Doctoral Student, Boston University, Boston, MA
Background and Purpose: Dually involved youth – youth experiencing involvement in both the child welfare and justice systems concurrently or sequentially – face higher risks of behavioral problems at school than youth in the general population and have higher-risk child welfare experiences, e.g. congregate care or placement instability, than non-dually involved foster youth. Limited literature examining school outcomes suggests that, compared to the general population, dually involved youth face increased risks of a range of school discipline outcomes. These adverse experiences are a serious concern, as poor school outcomes are associated with long-term negative consequences, including poverty, unemployment, criminal justice system involvement, and substance abuse. However, very little research has examined school disciplinary and academic outcomes of dually involved youth and identified barriers to or facilitators of school success in this population. The present study addresses this knowledge gap by estimating the extent to which dually involved status affects school disciplinary and academic outcomes and by examining factors affecting school outcomes among dually involved youth.

Methods: This study employed multivariate regression models using administrative data from child welfare, education, and court sources in Massachusetts. The full sample of youth in foster care (n=4893) was stratified into dually involved (n=458) and non-dually involved (n=4435) groups. Students’ English Language Arts (ELA) and Math scaled test scores, experiences of school disciplinary action (e.g., in-school and out-of-school suspension), and chronic absence were modeled as the outcomes of interest. Individual-level demographic, child welfare characteristic, and school experience variables were examined as predictors. Two models were estimated: (1) a model examining the extent to which the dually involved status affects the outcomes in the full sample and (2) a model examining factors associated with the outcomes within the dually involved youth population.

Results: Preliminary results indicate that, compared to non-dually involved foster youth, dually involved youth are significantly more likely to experience chronic absences and school disciplinary actions, controlling for a robust set of covariates. No significant differences in ELA or math scores emerged. Within the dually involved youth population, dually involved youth placed in intensive or other home-based foster care settings were significantly less likely to experience chronic absence compared to youth in more restrictive placement types. Also, dually involved youth with multiple placements were more likely to experience school discipline than dually involved youth who had only one placement.

Conclusions and Implications: This study expands the previously limited evidence on school outcomes among dually involved youth. Foster care students’ trauma-linked behaviors which can lead to juvenile justice involvement often play out in the context of schools, and schools’ disciplinary responses are a critical factor shaping the risk of delinquency that students in foster care face. Experiences of school discipline, specifically exclusionary discipline (e.g. suspension, expulsion), are strongly associated with delinquency and criminal justice involvement. The present study’s findings suggest the continued need to adjust child welfare, school-based, and juvenile justice system responses to be sensitive to dually involved youth’s experiences of trauma in order to promote successful school outcomes among these youth.