Methods: The sample includes 611 youths who participated in the age 19 (wave 2) interviews of the CalYOUTH Study. The 3-category outcome captures youths’ roles in their ILP development at age 19 (1 = was not involved or not aware of their ILP, 2 = involved in their ILP but did not lead it, or 3 = led their ILP development). Youth-level predictors were drawn from the Wave 1 survey when participants were age 17 (demographics, personality traits, social support, foster care history, ILP involvement, and several other risk and protective factors). County-level predictors (e.g., unemployment rates, county caseworkers’ perceptions of service/training availability) were taken from state administrative data and a representative survey of California caseworkers. Multivariate ordinal logistic regression was used to explore relationships between youth- and county-level predictors and the outcome. Survey weights were used to expand estimates to the population of foster youth meeting the study criteria.
Results: At age 19, 36% of youth reported leading their ILP development, 40% being involved but not leading the development, and 24% were not involved or aware of their ILP. Regression analyses found that having more informational social support (i.e., people who provide guidance) increased the odds of a youth leading their ILP by 40%. The odds of taking a leading role in ILP involvement at age 19 was 2.2 times greater for youth who led their ILP at age 17 (vs. not involved/not aware). Conversely, repeating a grade in school reduced the odds of leading their ILP by 27%. The odds of leading ILP development was 6.6 times greater for youth who remained in care past age 18 (i.e., participated in extended foster care). Lastly, youth residing in counties where caseworkers viewed court personnel (i.e., judges, attorneys) as being supportive of extending foster care (vs. unsupportive or indifferent) had 75% greater odds of leading their ILP development.
Conclusions and Implications: Foster youths’ involvement in their ILP development is recognized as a potential protective factor during their transition to adulthood and is a legally mandated process. However, nearly a quarter of the youth in this study were not involved in or aware of their ILP at age 19. Youths’ level of participation in their ILP was found to be predicted by their social support, staying in care past age 18, and county court supportiveness. This calls for greater attention to be paid to the interpersonal- and systems-level factors within child welfare contexts that may impact youths’ involvement in their ILP development.