Abstract: Transition to Independence Program (TIP): Effects on Academic Outcomes of College-Enrolled Students with Foster Care Experience (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Transition to Independence Program (TIP): Effects on Academic Outcomes of College-Enrolled Students with Foster Care Experience

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Hospitality 3 - Room 432, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Angelie Day, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Sebrena Jackson, PhD, Associate Professor & MSW Program Director, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Background and Purpose: A growing body of research has shown that young people with lived experience in foster care complete college at rates far below their peers. As a result, a growing number of states and universities have developed targeted college success programs. These programs provide wraparound services and supports to help students with lived experience in foster care persist through their post-secondary education programs. To date, few quantitative studies have evaluated the impact of college support programs on post-secondary retention rates of foster youth, and many are limited by sampling issues, including small sample sizes, a lack of comparison groups, and short follow-up times. The current analysis examines the effectiveness of a targeted college retention program on college completion rates over a five-year observation period and includes the use of an experimental design and sample size with enough statistical power to detect meaningful effects.

Methods: Data come from linked state and university administrative data and program level data from the Transition to Independence Program (TIP), a college access and retention program for college enrolled youth at a mid-western, four-year university between 2012 and 2016. The final sample included 156 foster youth that participated in TIP, 55 foster youth enrolled at the university who didn’t participate in TIP, and a stratified random sample of 435 non-foster care, 1st generation, low- income (TRIO eligible) students who were enrolled at the same university over the same time period. Pre- treatment imbalances across the sample (age at enrollment, race, gender, & transfer status) were controlled for using a propensity score matching process. Multinomial logistic regression was used to model the association between covariates and the three treatment conditions on college retention status.

Results: The students with lived foster care experience who did not participate in TIP were almost two times more likely to drop out of college than the students with lived foster care experience who were enrolled in the TIP program (odds ratio = 1.96; P< .05). TIP students were retained at the same rate as their non-foster, TRIO eligible, first generation, low-income peers. There were no statistically significant differences in dropout rates based on age of enrollment, transfer status, race or gender.

Conclusions: Participation in targeted campus-based support programs appear to increase college retention and graduation rates of students with lived foster care experience and may provide great promise for decreasing the disparities previous studies have observed between students from foster care and their non-foster care, low-income, college-going peers. The current study provides strong validation for the need to continue the national movement to expand state and federal policies that support investments in building and retaining targeted campus support program for college students with foster care histories. The current study also provides a model for partnership between universities and public child welfare agencies, and a rigorous program design that can be replicated and used at other U.S. institutions of higher education.