Improving Transitions to Adulthood for Youth Served by the Foster Care System: A Report on the Strengths and Needs of Existing Aftercare Services

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The transition from foster care to adult independence brings many unexpected challenges. This document reports on the experiences of young adults as they leave the foster care system. It identifies community-based organizations (CBOs) that provide support and services to these adults, and relates opinions of both in order to identify what is needed to strengthen the service system and to build the capacity of CBOs working with former foster youth. The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) surveyed organizations that provide services to young and older adults after they have left foster care. The results were used to create a service directory for former foster youth, social workers, and other CBOs in need of resources for assisting former foster youth, in addition to building a foundation of information about local community support for foster youth. This report includes recommendations for building capacity at the local levels and for strengthening the overall service system to facilitate successful long term outcomes for foster youth. (JDM)

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... With this new policy in place, the timing of youth's exit from care can be informed by their demonstrated readiness for independence, increasing the likelihood of a successful transition to self-sufficiency. Preparation for self-sufficiency is enhanced by the provision of the following services: job readiness, educational support and tutoring, time management skills, money management skills, career pathway exploration, access to community resources, parenting education and skills development, and education about sexual health and family planning (Maluccio et al., 1990;Nixon & Jones, 2000;Nollan, 2000). ...
... Further efforts need to be made to improve aftercare support services for youth who leave care before 21 years of age. The literature suggests innovative ways to provide services and resources to young people in transition including: resource/drop-in centers, Internet resources and access, telephone assistance and information hotlines, and independent living refresher workshops (Nixon & Jones, 2000). Providing youth with an opportunity for short-term assistance or guidance will ultimately promote a successful transition to adulthood. ...
... A critical implication for practice is the need to properly train foster parents to care for adolescent youth in out-of-home care, and for ILPs to formally collaborate with foster parents to prepare youth for self-sufficiency (Lemon et al., 2005). Nixon and Jones (2000) found that young adults felt strongly the need to continue connections with other former foster youth. As an additional resource for young people, aftercare services can encourage young adults in transition to develop support groups and networks with each other. ...
Youth in transition from out-of-home care to adulthood are a vulnerable sub-population of the foster care system. In addition to the trauma of maltreatment, and challenges associated with out-of-home care, these youth face the premature and abrupt responsibility of self-sufficiency as they leave care for independent living. The purpose of this study was to identify personal and interpersonal factors that contribute to resilience of young adults who left out-of-home care of a large urban child welfare system during a one year period. Sixty percent of the eligible young adults participated in a computer-assisted self-administered interview about their self-sufficiency including: educational attainment, employment, housing, parenthood, health risk behavior, criminal activity, and perceived levels of social support, spiritual support, community support, and global life stress. This study explored the relationship between support systems, life stress, and the young adults' resilience reflecting key outcomes. The study's findings indicated that females, older youth, and youth with lower perceived life stress had higher resilience scores. Implications for child welfare practice, policy, theory, and research advance knowledge about young adults in transition from out-of-home care.
... W hen at-risk youth leave the care of an agency-whether it is a foster care independent-living program, the Job Corps, or programs serving homeless and runaway teens-it is critical that youth and the agency stay connected. Atrisk teens need ongoing support from their mentors and peer group, just like typical teens get from their parents and friends when they leave home (Jenson, Hawkins, & Catalano, 1986;Mallon, 1998;Mech, Pryde, & Rycraft, 1995;Nixon & Jones, 2000;Wedeven, Pecora, Hurwitz, Howell, & Newell, 1997). Agencies, for their part, need long-term contact with youth to evaluate program outcomes, which is now required by law for federally funded programs (e.g., Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 [P.L. ; Workforce Investment Act of 1998 [P.L. 105-220]). ...
... Providers rely on limited methods such as distributing stamped change-of-address cards during graduation ceremonies, holding reunions for graduates, and conducting outreach initiatives (Beck, 1990). In spite of such wellintentioned efforts, contact with youth is typically only as enduring as their latest valid phone number or address (Eisenbud, Moore, Ryan, & Taylor, 2001;Nixon & Jones, 2000). Agencies often end up playing the role of detective, an expensive and ineffective strategy (U.S. ...
... For many reasons, the Web has the potential of facilitating the long-term communication needs of both youth and support agencies (e.g., Jim Casey, 2001;Nixon & Jones, 2000). Teens are turning to the Web in rapidly growing numbers. ...
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Most teens leaving the care of an agency are woefully unprepared and unsupported. Current approaches to aftercare are expensive and difficult to implement. This study evaluated a prototype version of, an innovative website for at-risk youth designed to teach lifeskills and build community. Findings from a sample of youth in the Job Corps showed that the website was highly effective in increasing their knowledge of apartment hunting skills, feelings of peer social support, and intentions of staying in touch with their agency.
... Mentoring for emancipating foster youth may help ease the transition to independence and simultaneously help with mental health challenges that foster youth may experience (Greeson et al. 2012). Nixon and Jones (2000) found that former foster youth desired contact with other foster care alumni, underscoring the need for organizations that serve former foster youth. Findings from this study also speak to the need for trained mental health professionals with child welfare knowledge to provide services for both current and former foster youth. ...
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This study assesses psychological well-being, risk, and resilience of youth currently in-care and former foster youth and how preparation for independent living affects these factors. Findings suggest significant psychosocial distress for former foster youth. Youth currently in-care fared better but demonstrated high scores on measures suggesting risk and potential for future mental health challenges. For former foster youth, independent living preparation positively impacted well-being. The more preparation for independence a youth received, the lower the psychological challenges. Findings suggest the need for mental health support for transitioning youth as well as preparation for independent living as a way to improve the well-being of former foster youth.
... For many reasons, the Web has the potential of facilitating communication among varying groups of people (Casey, 2001;Nixon and Jones, 2000). Costs of communicating online are miniscule compared to airmail. ...
The advent of the World Wide Web and the increased use of computers have allowed almost everyone to communicate with others electronically. This technology has also changed the face of higher education. Communication between professors and students, and among students, has potentially increased due to the ease and speed of exchanging information electronically. This study reviews the results of a pilot study that evaluated the perceptions of a group of university faculty about whether the presence of mandatory laptop usage by all students in a Midwestern university had affected their interactions with their students, possibly affecting their sense of community.
... Recently, Nixon and Jones (2000) suggested additional innovative ways to improve aftercare services for youth, including providing resource/drop-in centers, internet resources and access, telephone assistance and information hotlines, and independent living refresher workshops. ...
... The participants indicated that their transition out of the system "was often very rapid, sometimes unplanned for or unexpected" (Nixon & Jones, 2000, p. 5). Some felt "dumped" from the system without adequate preparation (Nixon & Jones, 2000). These experiences were echoed in a New Jersey report in which some older youth indicated that they were notified without prior warning by mail that they were being discharged from the system (Mendel, 2001). ...
Little research has systematically examined the transition process out of the foster care system for older youth, especially in states where youth can stay past age 18. This study uses mixed-methods data from 404 youth from Missouri, interviewed nine times between ages 17 and 19 to explore five questions. Who exits before age 19 and who stays? When do they exit? Where do they go? What are the circumstances of their exits? Do they want to exit and if so, why? Youth, especially those with externalizing behavior problems, left before they were required, often abruptly and dissatisfied with the foster care system. A large number of youth returned to their biological homes and those that remained in the system often lived in their own apartments. Efforts are needed to make remaining in care tolerable to youth who want to stay and transitioning out of care for those who want to leave a positive, thoughtful experience.
This study explored the effects of the factors on independent living readiness among youth under out‐of‐home care. Specifically, this study focused on the effects of caregivers' autonomy support and psychological capital on independent living readiness through personal growth initiative. A total of 215 youth who were expected to be discharged from caring institution within three years were gathered for the survey, and the final sample was 194 after excluding incomplete responses. Structural equation modeling with Mplus (version 7) was used to test research model and hypotheses in the study. Results showed that the research model was appropriated with several fit indices satisfied and that all the hypotheses were supported. Also, direct and indirect effects of independent variables were fully supported. However, the indirect effect of psychological capital was marginally significant. The results implicate that both caregiver's autonomy support and psychological capital are important for increasing personal growth initiative and that personal growth initiative served as a motivation to facilitating the readiness for independent living among children under institutional care.
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