Roundtable: Pathways and Pitfalls: Reflections on Building Evidence in Child Welfare and the Transition to Adulthood
(Family and Child Policy)

Thursday, November 8, 2018: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Truman - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Moderators:  Matthew Stagner, Mathematica Policy Research
Speakers:  Cay Bradley, Mathematica Policy Research, Marla McDaniel, Urban Institute and Erika Van Buren, First Place for Youth

In the areas of educational attainment, employment, earnings, avoidance of delinquency and justice systems involvement, and adolescent pregnancy, former foster youth experience significantly worse outcomes in comparison to the general population. Child welfare policy aims to encourage improvement in the outcomes of children and youth, in part, through the development of an evidence base in child welfare and increased support for child welfare-involved youth as they transition to adulthood. For example, as a part of the largest restructuring of child welfare funding in nearly three decades, the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) authorizes use of Title IV-E child welfare funding for prevention services that meet the definition of promising, supported, or well supported practice. FFPSA also expands eligibility for child welfare-involved youth eligible for services funded by the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. Furthermore, 24 states and the District of Columbia have extended foster care through the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (PL 110-351) and the majority of states allow for some form of state-funded extended foster care or services beyond age 18. However, the evidence base for programs and practices that aim to improve the outcomes of child welfare-involved youth as they transition to adulthood is limited.

Participants in this roundtable include leaders of related research and evaluation projects, such as the federal evaluation of Chafee-funded programs, the Children’s Bureau’s Youth At-Risk of Homelessness evaluation technical assistance, the director of multiple studies of pregnant and parenting among child welfare-involved youth, and the leader of a statewide transition age youth program in California engaged in continuous improvement. Discussants will describe their experience with efforts to build evidence of promising and effective practices that support successful transitions from dependency to adulthood for child welfare-involved youth and how the lessons learned shape their thinking about next steps for future study and building evidence in field.

The roundtable will begin with a discussion of research findings that describe employment, education, housing, and health characteristics; outcomes; and services for youth as they transition from child welfare dependency. From the perspective of their unique roles and experiences, discussants will then describe their recent experiences with efforts to improve and build evidence of effective programs in the field. Comments will address topics such as implementing evaluation initiatives within varying, dynamic state and local policy and community contexts; organizational and system readiness for evaluation including capacity to capture data and assess outcomes; identifying outcomes and relationships among drivers of outcomes amidst the broad goals and spectrum of services for which programs are charged; managing replication amidst the unique needs of different sub-populations of youth; engaging multiple youth and adult human service, education, and justice systems in evaluation; and developing capacity to engage in continuous quality improvement and innovation while developing stable program models. Throughout the roundtable discussion, discussants will continually return to the theme that developing evidenced based programs for transition age, child welfare-involved youth requires collaboration, iteration, and willingness to engage with the complex nature of the child welfare system.

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