• Ann Wrixon

Extended Foster Care: Does it Work?



Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago recently released its 3rd Wave report on California’s extended foster youth program, called “Findings from the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH): Conditions at Age 21, 2018” The researchers for this longitudinal study begun in 2018 are Mark E. Courtney, Nathanael J. Okpych, Keunhye Park, Justin Harty, Huiling Feng, Adrianna Torres-Garcia, and Samiya Sayed.

The overall study addresses three research questions:

  • “Does extending foster care past age 18 influence youth’s outcomes during the transition to adulthood (e.g. outcomes in education, employment, health, housing, parenting and general well-being)?

  • “What factors influence the type of support youth receive during the transition to adulthood in the context of extended foster care?

  • “How do living arrangements and other services that result from extending foster care influence the relationship between extending care and youth outcomes?” (p. 2)

This first report from the 3rd Wave of results is purely descriptive, and does not provide the answers to the research questions listed above, which will be done in later reports. The reports has some very positive outcomes. For example, 80% of the youth had graduated from high school or earned a GED. Sixty percent were enrolled in a community college. In addition, 57% are employed either full or part-time. Finally most had both health and dental insurance.

Unfortunately, almost 50% had experienced some economic hardship and 30% had been food insecure in the last year. Almost a quarter have been homeless at some point in the last two years. In addition, 22% of the males and 7% of the females have been incarcerated. Unintended pregnancy is also a problem. Forty-one percent of females had become pregnant and 29% gave birth. Thirty-four percent did not want to get pregnant. Forty-one percent of the females and 17% of the males had a child.

In the summary, the researchers state,”[I]t is important to acknowledge that despite the help they received, on average these young people are faring poorly compared to their age peers across many measures of well-being, including their educational attainment, employment, economic self-sufficiency, physical and mental health, and involvement with the criminal justice system. These relatively poor average outcomes should not be simply attributed to their time in foster care, since they generally came into care from marginalized communities where many young people struggle during the transition to adulthood and they had often suffered long histories of trauma prior to entering care. Nevertheless, our findings indicate that more work can and should be done to better support them during the transition to adulthood.” p. 160

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