Abstract: Does Placement Type Matter for Older Youth in Foster Care? Differences in Youth Outcomes By Extended Foster Care Placement Type (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Does Placement Type Matter for Older Youth in Foster Care? Differences in Youth Outcomes By Extended Foster Care Placement Type

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 12, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Huiling Feng, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Nathanael Okpych, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut, Hartford
Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Mark Courtney, PhD, Samuel Deutsch Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: Providing appropriate housing options for transition-age foster youth is a critical focus of extended foster care (EFC) services. In California, two new placement options were created in recognition of non-minor dependents’ unique developmental and housing needs: Supervised Independent Living Placements (SILP) for youth prepared to live independently with minimal oversight, and Transitional Housing Placement for Non-Minor Dependents (THP-NMD) for youth who need structured assistance, supervision, and support. Previous studies examining youths’ placement history have largely focused on the impact of placement instability and congregate care on outcomes for minors in care (e.g., Rock et al., 2015). The present study examines associations between EFC placement types and later employment and postsecondary education outcomes among young adults.

Methods: The current study analyzes California child welfare administrative data, which captures youths’ placement records in EFC. The sample includes youth who stayed in EFC for at least one day between 2012 to 2018 (N = 51,744). Two sets of youth outcomes were assessed in this study. First, leveraging state unemployment insurance wage data, we examined youths’ employment and earnings outcomes, including ever being employed, monthly earnings, and mean quarters employed. Second, drawing from National Student Clearinghouse data, we examined postsecondary education outcomes including whether youth were ever enrolled in college and the average number of months enrolled. The main predictor of this analysis is the predominant placement type at each month from 2012-2018: SILP, THP-NMD, or another placement type. We used mixed-effects regression models to examine differences in placement type on the employment and postsecondary education outcomes. A wide range of controls were included in the regression models: youth demographics, foster care history, maltreatment records, disability and health, county-level attributes, and outcome-specific covariates (e.g., county youth employment rate for employment outcomes).

Results: On average, the percent of time youth spent in THP-NMD steadily increased from 3% in 2012 to 26% in 2018. SILPs became the placement type where youth spent the greatest percentage of time, rising from 15% in 2012 to 44% in 2018. From 2012 to 2018, youth employment and monthly earnings increased across SILP, THP+NMD, and other placements. Compared to youth in SILPs, youth in THP-NMD had significantly (p<.05) greater odds of being employed (OR=1.24), were employed longer (b=0.25), and were more likely to ever enroll in college (OR=1.42). No significant differences were found between SILPs and THP-NMD in quarterly earnings or length of time enrolled in college. Youth in other placements fared worse than youth in THP-NMDs and SILPs across all outcomes.

Conclusions and Implications: This is among the first studies to investigate associations between youth’s EFC placement type and key education and employment outcomes. Despite serving higher needs youth, THP+NMDs are associated with increased rates of employment and postsecondary enrollment. Youth in other placements (e.g., relative and nonrelative foster homes) fared worse across the outcomes we assessed. These findings underscore the important supports provided by the specialized EFC placement types, and suggests that youth in other placement types may benefit from more support than is currently available.