Findings from the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH)
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 amended Title IV-E to extend the age of Title IV-E eligibility from 18 to 21 for foster care youth. Under provisions of the law, states now have the option to extend care, but are not required to do so. A number of states have adopted legislation to extend care and others are considering doing so. California enacted the California Fostering Connections to Success Act in 2010 and began extending care on January 1, 2012. With the largest state foster care population in the U.S., it is arguably the most important early adopter of the new policy.
Research on the extension of foster care in California began with early implementation studies documenting the history of the legislation and the planning process for implementing California’s Fostering Connections to Success Act. Following the early implementation studies, the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH) was initiated in 2012.Study Overview
CalYOUTH is an evaluation of the impact of the California Fostering Connections to Success Act on outcomes during the transition to adulthood for foster youth. CalYOUTH includes collection and analysis of information from three sources: 1) transition-age youth, 2) child welfare workers, and 3) government program data. The study, led by Mark Courtney and conducted in collaboration with the California Department of Social Services and California County Welfare Directors Association, is being carried out over a 5-year period from 2012-2017.
The overall study addresses three primary research questions:
To answer these questions, CalYOUTH is following youth (N = 727) ages 17 through 21 using in-person interviews. In addition, CalYOUTH conducted an on-line survey of 235 California child welfare workers to obtain their perceptions of key characteristics of the service delivery context of extended foster care. Finally, CalYOUTH completed a qualitative study of youths’ living arrangements including observations of multiple living settings and open-ended interviews with young adults and staff and caregivers in these settings.Legislative History Report
This report traces the history of the California’s Fostering Connections to Success Act legislation from its introduction in the California State Assembly, through its passage and signing, and ultimately to its innovative and extensive implementation planning process. The report aims to document the California experience, highlighting its successes and challenges, so that other states may benefit, potentially smoothing the legislative and implementation processes there. Beyond telling the story of extended care, this report also focuses on two other issues. The first is the strong role played by a group of stakeholders (e.g., advocates, foundations, county administrators) in passing this bill and seeing it through implementation planning. We find that their central involvement was a result of their own desire to see the policy through to implementation, the limited capacity of state government agencies to implement such complex legislation, and the willingness of foundations to help fund implementation planning. The second is the degree to which research evidence was used in both the legislative and implementation planning phases. Our findings about use of evidence indicate that for research to be effective in shaping legislative decisions, it needs to be more timely and geared to policymakers’ concerns. In particular, research on specific state-level contexts is greatly valued. For legislation that concerns sympathetic populations, testimonial or discursive evidence can be just as effective with legislators as research evidence. Moreover, in times of budgetary constraint, research evidence about cost effectiveness may be as important as research evidence about program or policy effectiveness.Implementation Report
This report examines the planning process for implementing California’s Fostering Connections to Success Act, as well as the new law’s early implementation. It is based on data collected from in-depth interviews with key informants who played a critical role in passage of the law, in implementation planning, or in early implementation at the county and state level and from focus groups with young people who stood to benefit directly from the legislation. Although extended foster care is likely to look different in different states, California’s experience offers many lessons from which other states might learn.Youth Report
This report presents findings from the Baseline Youth Survey, providing the most comprehensive view to date of young people approaching the transition to adulthood from foster care in the wake of the federal Fostering Connections Act. Information gathered during interviews with 727 youths who were an average of 17 years old at the time, offers insight into the needs and aspirations of transition-age foster youth. Study findings can help inform efforts to improve policies and services for foster youths’ transitioning to adulthood.Child Welfare Worker Survey
This report presents findings from the Child Welfare Worker Survey, an on-line survey of 235 California child welfare workers and their perceptions of key characteristics of the service delivery context of extended foster care, including: the availability of transitional living services; coordination between the child welfare system and other service systems such as county courts; and youth attitudes toward extended care. This report provides a valuable snapshot of how youths’ caseworkers, central players in the implementation of extended foster care, perceive young people making the transition to adulthood out of care and the service context for that transition.Qualitative Study Report
This report presents findings from a qualitative study of youths’ living arrangements in California. One of the most important ways that extended foster care is likely to influence the developmental context of youth making the transition to adulthood from foster care is through altering the range of state-supported living arrangements available to these young people. CalYOUTH conducted a qualitative examination of the contexts within which youth are experiencing extended foster care using short observations at multiple living settings, as well as open-ended interviews with young adults and staff/caregivers in these placements. Study findings illustrate the potential benefits of these new placement settings as well as the challenges of providing developmentally appropriate living arrangements for young adults in state care.Youth and Caseworker Perspectives on Older Adolescents in California Foster Care: Youths' Education Status and Services
This paper examines the educational status of and services available to older adolescents in foster care in California, both from the viewpoint of the young people themselves and from the viewpoint of caseworkers who work with foster youth. Three specific areas are examined in the paper: the educational history and status of older adolescents in care, the perception of how ready these youth are to pursue their educational goals, and the availability and helpfulness of education-related services. This paper provides a statewide picture of older adolescents in foster care and caseworkers who serve this population. The findings point to progress that youth have made in completing their education; gaps between youths' aspirations, their current level of preparedness, and caseworkers' perceptions of their readiness to continue their education; and the critical role extended foster care is perceived to play in the educational futures of foster youth.Mental Health and Substance Use Problems and Service Utilization by Transition-Age Foster Youth: Early Findings from CalYOUTH
This discussion paper examines mental health and substance use disorders, as well as related treatment services, among foster care youth participating in the CalYOUTH Study. The prevalence of and receipt of services for mental health and substance use disorders are described, as well as the use of psychotropic medications and youths’ experiences with those medications. We then examine factors associated with service receipt for mental health and substance use disorders. Results suggest that the need for treatment services is strongly associated with their use, as are other factors including gender, sexual orientation, and where youth live. These findings have implications for the delivery of mental and behavioral health services to transition-age foster care youth in California, as well as other states providing extended foster care services to young people involved in the foster care system.Memo from CalYOUTH: Early Findings on Extended Foster Care and Legal Permanency
In light of recent concern raised about the potentially negative effect that the policy of extended care might have on older youths’ exits from care via legal permanency (i.e., family reunification, adoption, and guardianship), this memo provides an early look at the relationship between extended foster care in California and the ways that older adolescents exit care in the state. We compare foster care exits at two time points: exits in the years shortly before extended care was implemented in California versus exits in the years immediately after implementation. We find some evidence that, in the extended care era, fewer older adolescents are exiting care before their 18th birthday than before the law was implemented. However, rather than being the result of a reduction in exits to legal permanency, this shift has more to do with an increase in the likelihood that youth will remain in care rather than emancipate prior to age 18, run away from care, or experience other unwanted exits.Extended Foster Care in California: Youth and Caseworker Perspectives
This brief examines attitudes towards and knowledge about extended foster care in California, both from the viewpoint of young people themselves as well as caseworkers across the state. Three specific areas are examined: youths’ motivation to participate in extended foster care and caseworker perceptions of their motivation; youths’ knowledge of extended care and caseworker perceptions of their knowledge; and caseworker attitudes toward extended care. Both groups report similar reasons for youth to participate in extended foster care. Caseworkers report some concern that youth are not as knowledgeable as they should be about extended care. While the majority of youth were aware of their right to remain in foster care after turning 18, there was less clarity about some details of extended care. Caseworkers also report some ambivalence about extended foster care.CalYOUTH Survey of Young Adults' Child Welfare Workers
This report presents the results of the CalYOUTH Survey of Young Adults’ Child Welfare Workers, a survey of case workers supervising youth in extended foster care who are participating in the CalYOUTH Youth Survey. The report shares the county child welfare workers’ views on how these young people are faring with the transition to adulthood, as well as their preparedness and service needs in a wide range of areas. The report also shares workers’ perceptions of the availability and helpfulness of services within their county, their perceptions of court personnel’s supportiveness of extended care, their satisfaction with collaboration with other systems of potential support for youth, and their views of challenges to effective implementation of extended foster care in California. The survey results highlight areas of progress and opportunities for continued improvement as California continues its development of foster care for young adults.Findings from the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH): Conditions of Youth at Age 19
The CalYOUTH Wave 2 Youth Survey, conducted when the young people participating in CalYOUTH were 19 years old, follows up on a survey of the same young people when they were approaching the age of majority in California’s foster care system. More than 80 percent of the youth who took part in the baseline interviews participated in the Wave 2 survey. The report provides the most comprehensive view to date of young adults making the transition to adulthood from foster care in California, highlighting differences between young people participating in extended foster care and young people who had left care. The report provides feedback for all parties interested in improving youth’s transitions from foster care to adulthood.