Risk and protective factors associated with successful independent living outcomes in a national sample of youth aging out of foster care




Liu, Chun, Ph. D.

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The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a crucial period in a young person’s life. Youth aging out of foster care normally face multiple disadvantages in terms of educational attainment, employment outcomes, housing, financial stability, and life skills compared with their peers in the general population. To overcome these challenges, the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) was established; it assists youth in making the transition from foster care to self-sufficiency by providing funding to states. This study aims to examine the risk and protective factors contributing to independent living outcomes using a national sample of youth aging out of the foster care system. By merging the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) datasets, this study provides an overview of independent living outcomes of youth aging out of foster care. By utilizing a growth curve modeling method, this study suggests there is a high prevalence of negative outcomes among this population as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. It shows that several risk factors are associated with key domains of independent living outcomes, including placement stability, current placement setting, and previous adverse experience. Having a connection between 17 and 21 with an adult and remaining in foster care after 18 are both substantial protective factors of successful life outcomes. The findings of this study also have implications for policy and practice. Policymakers and practitioners should work together to develop evidence-based, trauma-informed interventions that better help this vulnerable population, with an emphasis on achieving relational permanency. Future Independent Living Programs should be tailored to meet the specific needs of youth in foster care, and child welfare workers should be aware of the risks and protective factors that impact youth development.



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