Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Becoming Adults: One-Year Impact Findings from the Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 1:45 PM
Merrick II (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Melanie A. Skemer1, Erin Jacobs Valentine1 and Mark Courtney2, (1)MDRC, (2)University of Chicago
About 70,000 young people between 14 and 20 years of age leave the foster care system in the United States each year. Roughly one-third of those individuals exit foster care because they “age out” of the system upon reaching adulthood, often at the age of 18. The juvenile justice system also extends a broad reach; nearly 100,000 youths leave juvenile justice facilities each year. Crossover between the foster care and juvenile justice systems is commonplace, as children who experience unstable or abusive family environments, poverty, and other harmful situations are at increased risk of entering both systems. Many of these youth have a difficult time making a successful transition to adulthood. Compared with others their age, they have relatively low levels of educational attainment and employment, and they are more likely to experience poverty and housing instability. While the number of programs designed to serve these populations have expanded, there is little rigorous evidence showing which of these services are effective and for whom.

The Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation, conducted by MDRC, along with Mark Courtney from the University of Chicago, is testing the impacts of the Transitional Living program, an independent living program designed to improve a wide range of outcomes for young people with histories of foster care or juvenile justice custody. The evaluation is using a random assignment research design. About 1,300 eligible youth were assigned, at random, to a program group, which was offered Transitional Living services, or to a control group, which was not offered Transitional Living services. Data collected for both groups include a survey, with an 84 percent response rate, and administrative data on postsecondary school enrollment.

This presentation focuses on the results of the impact analysis, which measures the one-year impacts of the Transitional Living program on outcomes in six domains: education, employment and earnings, housing stability and economic well-being, social support, health and safety, and criminal involvement. Results show that the Transitional Living program led to positive, significant impacts across a broad number of outcomes in three of the six domains. Specifically, the program boosted earnings, increased housing stability and economic well-being, and improved some of the primary outcomes related to health and safety. However, it did not significantly improve outcomes in the areas of education, social support, or criminal involvement.

The Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation is one of the largest, most rigorous evaluations to test the effectiveness of a program designed to improve outcomes for young adults who have aged out of the foster care or juvenile justice systems. Given the paucity of evidence showing positive impacts of independent living programs, the positive results found in this study are especially important to building a body of evidence-based interventions in this area. The presentation will describe the policy implications of these findings.

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