Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 5:15 PM-6:15 PM
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development
Mark Courtney, PhD, University of Chicago
The transition to adulthood can be particularly challenging for young people in foster care (Collins, 2001; Courtney, 2009; Courtney et al, 2011; McMillen et al, 2005; Pecora et al, 2005). Many of these young adults come from families that are marginalized as a result of race, ethnicity and/or poverty, and are unable to turn to their parents or other family members for financial and/or emotional support. Acknowledgement of this led to a fundamental policy shift toward greater government responsibility for supporting foster youths' transitions to adulthood. The 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Fostering Connections Act) allowed states, starting in 2011, 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. States have the option to extend care and 26 states have done so. 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 states are implementing, 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. However, little research has sought to describe the needs and experiences of young adults in foster care.
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 involves interviews with young people making the transition to adulthood from care at 17, 19, 21, and 23 years of age, surveys of caseworkers supervising extended foster care, and analysis of government administrative records on youths' maltreatment and care histories, college enrollment and persistence, earnings, and receipt of need-based public aid. 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). Follow-up interviews were conducted in 2015 with 84% of the baseline sample (n=611), in 2017 with 85% (n = 616) of the baseline sample, and in 2019-2020 with 86% (n = 622) of the baseline sample. This symposium includes presentations based on CalYOUTH data on topics relevant to providing extended foster care to young adults, including: foster youths' involvement with their children and children's dependency status; associations between youths' characteristics and primary placement in extended care; youths' participation in transitional independent living plan development; influence of campus support programs on youths' college persistence; and contextual influences on youths' juvenile justice system involvement. Our findings have implications for implementation of the Fostering Connections Act.
* noted as presenting author