LifeSet Providers Identify Model Strengths and Implementation Challenges

This brief summarizes findings from Phase I of an evaluation of LifeSet, an intensive, evidence-based, youth-centered, and service-focused model developed by Youth Villages to help youth in foster care acquire the skills needed to make a successful transition into adulthood. LifeSet is being implemented by three child welfare services providers in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) contracted with Chapin Hall to evaluate its implementation and its impact on youth outcomes. 

What We Did

Our Phase I evaluation included three components: (1) a review of documents provided by Youth Villages and DCFS to understand the model; (2) interviews with supervisors and administrators from the three LifeSet providers to learn about their experiences with implementation; and (3) an analysis of DCFS administrative data that compared the demographic characteristics and out-of-home care experiences of youth who were enrolled in LifeSet to those of youth who were in a traditional transitional living (TLP) or independent living (ILO) placement.  

What We Found

  • The perceived strengths of LifeSet include the centrality of youth engagement and agency; the intentionality of service provision; the increased availability of “community living” options; and the availability of clinical and nonclinical staff supports. 
  • Implementation challenges include concerns about the appropriateness of some referrals, about youth who disengage from LifeSet, and about specialist and supervisor workloads.  
  • Compared to their non-LifeSet peers, LifeSet youth are more likely to be Black, less likely to have a history of psychiatric hospitalization, more likely to have ever run away while in care, and less likely to have a history of detention.  

What It Means

Our findings in Phase I of this evaluation clarify our next steps to reliably determine this program’s impact on youth outcomes. We found clear differences between LifeSet and non-LifeSet youth in both their demographics and their placement histories. Thus, to assess LifeSet’s impact on outcomes, we must identify a comparison group consisting of youth in traditional TLP and ILO with similar demographics and placement histories as those in LifeSet. In the next phase, we will examine the degree of alignment in perceptions of the program among LifeSet youth, LifeSet case managers and supervisors, and provider administrators.

Recommended Citation
Gitlow, E., Kugley, S., Shapiro, S., Kakuyama-Villaber, R., Jacobsen, H., Chor, K. H. B., & Dworsky, A. (2022). Findings from Phase I of the Illinois DCFS LifeSet Evaluation. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

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