No Impact for Youth Participating in an Independent Living-Employment Services Program

Evidence indicates that youth aging out of foster care often struggle with the transition to adulthood. One program to address these youth’s needs is the Independent Living-Employment Services Program (IL-ES), which included employment assistance and life skills development. However, we found no significant impact on youth in the program in the areas we measured.

What we did

We conducted a randomized controlled trial with 254 participating youth between the ages of 16 and 21 years who were living in foster care, between 2003 and 2008. Participants included 136 youth in the treatment group (IL-ES) and 118 youth in the control group. Youth participated in one initial interview and two follow-up interviews and completed a questionnaire. Final outcome data were also drawn from Unemployment Insurance wage data.

To assess program impact, we examined preparedness for independent living, education, employment, and economic well-being. We also gathered data on physical and mental health, substance abuse, social support, and delinquency.

What we found

Results revealed no significant difference between the treatment and control groups on measures of employment or other outcomes. There were no differences in long-term program impacts on participants’ earnings.

What it means

The “light-touch” approach may not be sufficient to meet the needs of foster youth in their transition out of care and into adulthood. More sustained and in-depth involvement in program activities may be needed to influence labor market outcomes and individual well-being.

It may also be difficult to assess the effects of an employment support program in a community that has a weak labor market and other employment supports for youth.

Recommended Citation
Courtney, M. E., Zinn, A., Koralek, R., & Bess, R. (2011). Evaluation of the Independent Living – Employment Services Program, Kern County, California: Final Report (OPRE Report 2011-13). 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 website, linked below.

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