Approximately 424,000 children lived in out-of-home care as of September 30, 2009, the most recent date for which national estimates are available (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS] 2010). Of the estimated 276,000 children who left out-of-home care in the United States during fiscal year 2008, 86 percent went to live with family, were adopted, or were placed in the home of a legal guardian (DHHS 2010). Eleven percent (or about 29,000) remained in care until they were legally “emancipated” to “independent living,” usually due to reaching the age of majority or upon graduation from high school. Research findings suggest that the transition to adulthood for foster youth in the United States is difficult. Many former foster youth have poor early adult outcomes, including limited educational experiences, mental health problems, criminal behavior, unemployment, homelessness and housing instability.
These poor outcomes suggest the need for services to prepare foster youths for the transition to adulthood. The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 amended Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to create the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP), giving states more funding and greater flexibility in providing support to youths making the transition to independent living. It also required evaluation of such services. In response to this requirement, The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) contracted with the Urban Institute and its partners – Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and the National Opinion Research Center – to conduct the Multi-Site Evaluation of Foster Youth Programs.
This evaluation explores the impacts of the employment services offered to youths in Kern County, California, aged 16 and older in the child welfare system. The main source of data for identifying program impacts is interviews with foster youths. To assess the impacts of the program, a rigorous, random assignment process was employed. A list of eligible youth names was received, and youth were assigned to either the IL-ES program (treatment) or control groups.