Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study's objective was to examine the impact of Independent Living Services (ILS) on high school graduation, post-secondary educational attainment, and full-time employment.
- Using survey and administrative data, the authors conducted a nonexperimental study to compare the outcomes of foster youth who participated in ILS to a matched comparison group of foster youth who did not participate in ILS.
- This study suggested there was a positive relationship between ILS participation and high school graduation, post-secondary enrollment, and full-time employment.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to receiving ILS services; other factors are likely to have contributed.
Independent Living Services (ILS)
Features of the Intervention
Youth who age out of the foster care system may face increased risks for homelessness, low educational attainment, unemployment, substance abuse, incarceration, and other issues. The Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) was established in 1999 to identify youth likely to age out of foster care and provide services to these youth for a successful transition to adulthood and independent living.
Independent Living Programs and Services (ILS) are one component of support services for such youth. Services might include academic and educational support, career preparation, financial literacy and management, housing education, health education and risk prevention, relationship skills, mentoring or tutoring, and life skills courses. The exact services provided vary across states and programs, but nearly all states provide some degree of education and employment services, including specific services such as academic support and tutoring, financial assistance for education, career preparation, employment or vocational training, and mentoring.
Features of the Study
The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare foster youth who participated in ILS to a matched comparison group of foster youth who did not participate in ILS. ILS participation was measured using administrative data from the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD), which includes service receipt for ILS funded through CFCIP and outcomes for foster care youth transitioning to adulthood. Youth were considered to have received ILS if they received any of the following services: academic support, such as GED preparation, academic counseling, tutoring, or assistance with coursework or homework; career preparation, such as job placement support, career coaching, or vocational assessment services; employment or vocational programs, such as internships or job training programs; mentoring; or education financial assistance including monetary assistance for educational/vocational supplies. Individuals in the comparison condition did not participate in any ILS services according to the NYTD data. Outcomes were measured using data from three NYTD survey waves (2011, 2013, 2015). Demographics and foster care characteristics data were obtained from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) from 2011.
The final study sample included those foster care youth who turned 17 in federal fiscal year 2011 and who had NYTD data for the 2011, 2013, and 2015 NYTD outcomes surveys as well as 2011 AFCARS data. Of the 4,206 youth included in analyses, 2,757 participated in ILS while 1,449 did not receive ILS services. Forty-five percent of these youth were White, 30 percent were Black, and 17 percent were Hispanic. On average, sample members had been in foster care for about 50 months with an average of six different foster care placements. Forty-three percent of sample youth reported a disability, and 18 percent reported having an experience of homelessness before age 17. Foster care youth from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were included in the study.
The authors used a statistical model to compare the outcomes of those who participated in ILS and those who did not participate in ILS. The authors used a matching procedure to statistically adjust for differences between the groups. Variables used for matching and as covariates included: race, sex, original reason for removal from family, foster care placement type, total months in foster care, disability status, number of foster care placements, and homelessness experience.
Education and Skills Gains
- The study suggested there was a positive relationship between ILS participation and high school graduation as well as post-secondary enrollment.
- The study suggested that ILS participants had higher full-time employment rates than those who did not participate in ILS.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors created a matched group of those who did not participate in ILS to compare to ILS participants. However, the authors did not account for other factors that could have affected the difference between the treatment and comparison groups, such as baseline measures of education and employment. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not participation in ILS—could explain the observed differences in outcomes.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to receiving ILS services; other factors are likely to have contributed.