Abstract: Correlates of Youth-Worker Co-Production of Transitional Independent Living Plans in Extended Foster Care at Age 19 (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Correlates of Youth-Worker Co-Production of Transitional Independent Living Plans in Extended Foster Care at Age 19

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jenna Powers, MSW, PhD Candidate, Research Assistant,, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT
Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Nathanael Okpych, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT
Mark Courtney, PhD, Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: Foster youths’ participation in their transitional independent living plan (TILP) is a legally-mandated process intended to prepare youth for the transition to independence. Emerging research suggests several youth-level (e.g., demographics, foster care histories) and interpersonal (e.g., youth-caseworker relationships) factors are associated with youths’ involvement in case-planning. However, there is limited understanding of the influence of contextual factors (e.g., county-level characteristics) and how care-related decisions are made after youth reach the age of majority. This study explores the predictors of youths’ roles in their TILP development at age 19 while they were in extended foster care.

Methods: The sample for this study includes 423 youths who completed both the Wave 1 and Wave 2 longitudinal interviews of the CalYOUTH Study, were in extended foster care around the time of Wave 2, and whose caseworker completed the second CalYOUTH caseworker survey. The outcome measures youths’ roles in their TILP development at age 19 (Wave 2): 1=was not involved in TILP development or was not aware of their TILP, 2=was involved in their TILP development but did not lead it, or 3=led their TILP development. Youth-level predictors were drawn from the Wave 1 survey and state child welfare administrative data (e.g., demographic characteristics, social support, behavioral health disorders, foster care and maltreatment history characteristics). Characteristics of youths’ placement county were drawn from the caseworker survey (e.g., perceptions of service availability) and other publicly-available sources (e.g., unemployment rate). Youths’ records were linked with information from their caseworkers’ survey responses. We used multinomial logistic regression to identify factors predicting youths’ roles in their TILP planning.

Results: Forty-four percent of youth reported leading their TILP development, 43% were involved but did not lead, and 13% were uninvolved/unaware. Youth who were older, who had a wider social support network, and who were ever incarcerated before age 18 were found to have an increased likelihood of participating in or leading their TILP development (vs. being uninvolved/unaware). Youth whose primary language is not English and youth who were parents were more likely to be uninvolved/unaware (vs. leading their TILP development). Youth supervised in counties where caseworkers perceived greater availability of support services and training for older foster youth were more likely to lead their TILP planning (vs. being uninvolved/unaware). Lastly, youth who were supervised by caseworkers specialized in serving transition-age foster youth were more likely to participate in the TILP-planning process than to lead it.

Conclusions and Implications: It is important to note that, despite federal policies requiring youth involvement, 13% of the participants reported being either unaware of or uninvolved in their TILP development at age 19. This study found that youths’ opportunities to influence their TILP were shaped by not only their individual characteristics but by relational and contextual factors. In other words, youths’ meaningful co-production of their care plans may be influenced by procedures and practice circumstances. An important direction for future research is to investigate how youths’ participation in their TILP development may influence their subsequent service utilization and adult outcomes.