Educational and Economic Benefits Found for Foster Youth in Massachusetts Outreach Program

Studies show that the transition out of foster care and into independent living can be challenging for young adults. The Massachusetts Adolescent Outreach Program for Youth in Intensive Foster Care (Outreach) was designed to help youth prepare for independent living by pairing youth exiting foster care with an outreach worker. Compared with a control group, young people in the program were more likely to enroll in college and they reported receiving more support in education, employment, money management, and finding housing.

What we did

We conducted a randomized controlled trial with 194 participating youth who lived in intensive foster care between 1985 and 1990. This study followed youth longitudinally, from program entry to exit two years later. To understand the impact of the program, we drew on a self-report questionnaire and data from the National Student Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker Service, which contains information on postsecondary students’ educational status and achievement.

What we found

Results revealed some benefits of participation in the Adolescent Outreach Program:

  • Participating youth were more likely to have enrolled in college and to have been engaged in their educational program for at least one year, in comparison to control group youth.
  • Outreach youth reported that, in comparison to control group peers, they received more support with educational and employment assistance, money management, and housing.

However, there were no differences between treatment and control group youth in the domains of employment, self-sufficiency, delinquency, or readiness for independent living.

What it means

The Massachusetts Adolescent Outreach Program, while showing some benefits, did not positively impact youth in across the full range of domains needed for a successful transition to adulthood.

Further research is needed to understand how programs targeting foster youth at this crucial transition can better address the breadth of their educational, economic, and psychosocial needs.

Recommended Citation
Courtney, M., Zinn, A., Johnson, H., and Malm, K. (2011). Evaluation of the Massachusetts Adolescent Outreach Program for Youths in Intensive Foster Care: Final Report. OPRE Report # 2011-14. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This report is available through the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, linked below.

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