Nearly One-Third of Foster Youth in California Not Involved with Creating Transitional Independent Living Plan
Youth participation is the involvement of youth in the decisions related to their lives. For youth in foster care, this process is formalized through case planning that occurs between the youth, a child welfare worker, and other key players involved with the case. Studies find that actively engaging the youth and sharing power in the decision-making process can be beneficial to foster youth. Several federal laws have been enacted over the past three decades that specify parameters for foster youth participation in the development of their transitional independent living plan (TILP). While federal legislation increasingly encourages the active engagement of foster youth in case planning and decision making, we still have limited understanding of youths’ experiences with this engagement.
What We Did
This memo investigates two aspects of foster youths’ transition planning: their roles in their TILP development and their level of satisfaction with their planning meetings. We also examine factors that are associated with youths’ transition-planning involvement and satisfaction, including both characteristics of the youth and characteristics of the counties in which they are placed.
This memo uses three data sources from the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH): (1) interviews conducted with a representative sample of young people in California child-welfare-supervised foster care (n = 727), (2) administrative child welfare data from California’s Child Welfare Services/Case Management System, and (3) a survey conducted with a representative sample of California child welfare workers who had a youth on their caseload aged 18 years old or older (n = 235). This memo presents descriptive statistics for two transition-planning outcomes, youths’ TILP roles and meeting satisfaction, as well as findings from two regression analyses that investigated predictors of each of the outcomes.
What We Found
We find that the majority of youth participated in their TILP development, but nearly a third reported that they were unaware of or uninvolved with the development of their TILP. When asked about their satisfaction with their planning meetings, more than a quarter of the youth said they were not involved in these meetings, and the majority of the other youth reported being satisfied or very satisfied with the meetings they were involved in. Overall, fewer than one-in-ten youth reported being dissatisfied with their planning meetings. Some of the factors found to be associated with one or both outcomes include certain personality traits, being a parent, histories of certain types of maltreatment, perceptions of caseworker helpfulness, age at the time of their interview, and county urbanicity.
What It Means
There are many reasons that youth may be unaware of or uninvolved in these planning processes, such as youth-level characteristics (e.g., how old they are, their level of interest in being involved), aspects of the youth-worker relationship, and county-level differences in how child welfare services are structured. Results from analyses of both outcomes—involvement and satisfaction—point to the critical role of the youth-caseworker relationship. Aspects of this relationship were found to shape youths’ opportunities to be involved in the decision-making processes around their TILP development. In an era in which there is a strong push to prepare youth for self-sufficiency after leaving care, this study aligns with past work that argues for the importance of interdependence and collaboration between youth and professionals. This study provides one of the first looks into understanding factors that are related to youths’ experiences with the transition-planning processes. Given that federal policy mandates that foster youth be engaged in these transition-planning processes, these findings deserve further attention from future studies.
Note: This memo summarizes findings from a peer-reviewed journal article published in Children and Youth Services Review (Park, Powers, Okpych, & Courtney, 2020). Please see the memo for the full citation of the article.