Session: New Approaches for Moving the Dial: Identifying Young People at Risk, Clarifying What Happened to Them, and Elevating Their Voices through Research (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.

252 New Approaches for Moving the Dial: Identifying Young People at Risk, Clarifying What Happened to Them, and Elevating Their Voices through Research

Saturday, January 14, 2023: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
Encanto A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Symposium Organizer:
Judith Havlicek, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Background and Purpose: Young people who age out of foster care represent a unique population served in child welfare systems. This is a group that never achieves permanence in foster care, leaving them without strong bonds and protections that are critical to their well-being. It is also the case that too many are exposed to a host of adversities prior to and while in foster care, elevating their risk for negative outcomes. Federal policy encourages (1) early screening for trauma(s) and (2) developmentally focused interventions in child welfare systems. Yet, too often, interventions targeting adolescents view them as being the risk rather than the hardships they have survived. This may mean that interventions implemented at the back end of child welfare lack the power to offset the effects of cumulative stressors. Thus, as scholars increasingly question past ways of serving children and families in child welfare systems, the time may be right for exploring new research approaches aimed at reframing this focus. This symposium challenges the field to think about possibilities. Could advances made in analytical approaches be used to identify children at risk of not achieving permanence or families at risk of losing legal custody of their children? If so, at what age could reliable predictions be made? If children at risk can be identified, what approaches have the power to change systems and maximize child and family well-being? How can knowledge be co-constructed with youth to better understand their lived experiences and expertise?

Methods: This collection of studies uses variable-focused and person-centered methods. The first presentation offers an orientation to predictive risk modeling�a set of tools that identify which variables can best predict the outcome that the model is trained on and create a predictive model that results in a risk score for each case. The second presentation collected life histories of former foster youth to clarify what events unfold in their childhoods and how they make meaning of these experiences? The last study presents an interview technique for co-construction of data collection and analysis that is under-utilized in social work research.

Results: Using child welfare administrative data in Illinois, the first study suggests that for youth placed in foster care between the ages of 12 and 14, a simple model with limited information can be useful for early identification of youth at risk of impermanence. In fact, acceptable predictions of risk for impermanence can be made as early as age 2 (if in foster care). The findings from life history interviews capture a history of cumulative adversities, including those not currently conceptualized as being “traumatic� in research. The last study describes the multiple ways that adaptation of the direct scribing technique strengthened data collection and analysis.

Discussion and Implications: This collection of studies asks critical questions and offers timely ideas about how data can be collected and analyzed to assist with decision-making made about resources that have the potential to offset risks.

* noted as presenting author
Predicting the Risk of (Im)Permanence through Age-Specific Modeling in Illinois
Hyunil Kim, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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