Midwest Study of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth
Mark E. Courtney, Amy Dworsky
Too old for the child welfare system but often unprepared to live as independent young adults, approximately 30,000 young people age out of foster care each year. There is currently a great deal of interest on the part of policymakers in the outcomes of these young people, particularly in the context of the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, which created the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP), and the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which allows states to claim federal reimbursement for eligible foster youth until age 21 (rather than 18 as has traditionally been the case).
The Midwest Study is a longitudinal study of more than 700 young people making this transition in three Midwestern states (Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin). Five waves of survey data were collected from these young people between 2002 and 2011. Reports from the five waves of data collection describe their experiences at ages 17 or 18, 19, 21, 23 or 24, and 26 across a variety of domains. They also compare the outcomes of these young people to the outcomes of a nationally representative sample of young adults who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health).
The three states involved in the Midwest Study have very different policies with respect to the age until which foster youth can remain in care. Youth in Iowa and Wisconsin are generally discharged from foster care at age 18 and almost never after their nineteenth birthday, whereas youth in Illinois can, and in many cases do, remain in foster care until age 21. Thus, the Midwest Study presents an opportunity to examine the potential effects of extended foster care. The Midwest Study is a collaborative effort among Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago; the University of Wisconsin Survey Center; and the public child welfare agencies in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.