Abstract: Effects of Enhanced Mentoring and Job Readiness Services for Older Youth in Care on Delinquency and Employment (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Effects of Enhanced Mentoring and Job Readiness Services for Older Youth in Care on Delinquency and Employment

Thursday, January 17, 2019: 4:15 PM
Union Square 16 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Sonya Leathers, PhD, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Imani Hodge, MPH, Research Specialist, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
James Barnett, MSW, Research Specialist, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Ellen Ross, MSW, Program Manager, Chicldren's Home and Aid, Chicago, IL
Melissa Ludington, MSW, Vice President of Child Welfare Services, Children's Home and Aid of Illinois, Chicago, IL
Background. Youth who age out of foster care are at high risk for difficulties in early adulthood. In the Midwest Study (Courtney et al., 2005), a large multi-state study of youth aging out of foster care, 14% of youth experienced homelessness and 60% reported unemployment soon after leaving care. At ages 23-24, just 48% of Midwest Study participants were employed, and those employed worked fewer hours and earned less than youth of a similar age in the general population. At ages 23 and 24, 16% of the Midwest study male participants were incarcerated, and 42% of the young men and 20% of the young women reported that they had been arrested.  High rates of justice system involvement is of particular concern given the long term consequences on young people’s trajectories throughout adulthood. Yet despite this critical need, little is known about how to improve outcomes for older adolescents in foster care. This study hypothesized that providing enhanced supports through mentoring and job readiness services adapted for youth in care would improve behavioral and employment outcomes.

Methods. This study used an experimental intent-to-treat design to test the effectiveness of enhanced services. The sample included 185 youth (response rate, 78% of eligible youth) age 17.5-20 years who were served by four participating agencies. Youth were predominantly female (65%) and African American (83%).  Randomization to the control and enhanced services groups occurred after youth enrollment and completion of a baseline interview, and youth were not required to participate in any services to participate in the study.  Intervention services included a supported mentoring program and a flexibly administered job readiness program. In-person youth interviews were conducted at baseline and a year later to assess effects on delinquency and employment using standardized measures. Differences in delinquency rates and hours employed at the one-year follow up were examined using bivariate and multivariate (logistic and Poisson regression) analyses.  

Results. A significant decrease in delinquency scores was reported in the enhanced services group at follow up relative to the control group and a striking difference in arrest rates was reported, with 4.2% of intervention group youth and 20.3% of control youth reporting an arrest in the last 12 months (ps < .05 for both). Regression results also indicate a significant effect for the enhanced services group on delinquency scores and arrests at follow up. While rates of employment were not significantly higher in the enhanced services group (47% vs. 33% working, p = .09), hours worked per week was significantly higher in the enhanced group (p < .05). 

Implications. This study sought to improve behavioral (delinquency and arrest rates) and employment outcomes by providing enhanced opportunities for supportive relationships with adults and job readiness training. Outcomes at one year follow up indicate that the enhanced services were effective in decreasing rates of delinquency and arrest as well as increasing hours worked per week. These results support continued development of service models emphasizing increased outreach and support to youth and flexible provision of mentoring and job readiness training services.