Foster Youths’ Capacity To Live Independently Should Drive Extended Foster Care Placement
Since the passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act in 2008, providing appropriate housing when youth are in care has been a critical focus of extended foster care (EFC) services. As one of the early adopters of EFC, California created Supervised Independent Living Placement (SILP) and Transitional Housing Placement for Non-Minor Dependents (THP-NMD) in recognition of young adults’ developmental needs and preferences. While SILPs are seen as appropriate for youth who are highly functioning and able to live independently, THP-NMDs are supervised and resource-intensive placements that are considerably more expensive than SILPs. Examining the characteristics and needs of youth entering SILP and THP-NMD is vital, not only because placements are the most important proxy of foster care service delivery for young adults in care, but also because it is important to understand whether youth with distinct needs are placed in appropriate EFC settings.
What We Did
The current memo (1) examines youths’ predominant placement type between ages 18 and 21 and (2) compares the characteristics of youth who resided predominantly in SILPs to those who resided predominantly in THP-NMDs between ages 18 and 21. We draw on two data sources for our analyses: the baseline interview of the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH) and administrative data from the California Department of Social Services’ Child Welfare Services/Case Management System. The administrative data allow us to view how youths’ characteristics differ across placements using the overall population of youths in extended care. The baseline interview data provides much richer information on the individual characteristics of a subsample of the larger population.
What We Found
Overall, SILPs and THP-NMDs were the most common EFC placement types (SILP [59%] and THP-NMD [18%] in the administrative data sample). Regression analysis results suggest that African American youth are more likely than white youth to stay in THP-NMDs. Compared to youth in rural counties, youth in large urban counties and Los Angeles County are less likely to reside in THP-NMDs than SILPs. Youth placed in kinship care before age 18 and youth who left care after their 18th birthday and reentered had increased odds of staying in SILPs. Furthermore, having been placed in congregate care before age 18, frequent placement changes, having a vision or hearing impairment, having other medical conditions that requiring special care, and having one or more living children before the baseline interview were found to increase the odds of staying in THP-NMDs rather than SILPs.
What It Means
While our findings provide some evidence that youth whose characteristics indicate a relatively greater need for supportive services are more likely to spend time in supportive housing programs than those youths with fewer needs for services, the two groups do not exhibit starkly different backgrounds. This suggests that some youths residing in SILPs may benefit from more support than is currently available to them. Child welfare workers should consider the assessment of a youth’s capacity to live independently and strive to assist youth in acquiring placement settings that best meet their needs. Future research should focus on the utilization and effectiveness of different EFC placements and how these living arrangements are related to youth outcomes such as homelessness, earnings, postsecondary education attainment, and public assistance.