Challenges Faced By Youth In Care
In 2011, Children’s Home + Aid was awarded a 5 year discretionary grant from the Children’s Bureau to explore innovative ways to address the unique and largely unmet needs of youth aging out of the foster care system. The purpose of the grant was to explore ways to improve service delivery to youth in care. At the time of the original Request for Proposals (RFP) research data regarding the outcomes of youth leaving foster care through emancipation painted a discouraging picture. Chapin Halls’ Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth (2011) found that former foster youth faced many barriers to a successful transition to adulthood:
- 16% of youth had been homeless since exiting care, and 25% had been homeless 4 or more times
- 16% of males were incarcerated by age 24
- 14% experienced homelessness after leaving the system
- 25% were malnourished
- 77% of women had been pregnant by age 24
- Foster youth were 3x more likely not to have a high school diploma or GED
- 60% of youth were unemployed post emancipation
In order to address the many challenges faced by youth in care after emancipation, Children’s Home + Aid developed two intervention programs and a supportive service program: Success Coaching, NEXT and Peer Connections. With these services we specifically sought to address the youth’s lack of supportive adult and peer relationships as well as struggles with unemployment, under-employment and limited financial resources. These programs were offered to all youth who were identified by their caseworkers as having a need for job skills training and/ or stronger connections with supportive adults. The program recruited youth from four different non-profit case management agencies that served youth living in foster homes, kinship foster care, transitional living programs and independent living programs. We studied the effects of the services in a randomized controlled study. One hundred and eight-five youth enrolled in the study, and 93 were randomly assigned to the enhanced services group. Those in the control group received usual services.
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