The Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth (hereafter referred to as the Midwest Study) originated in response to interest by policy makers regarding the success of state child welfare services receiving federal funds and the well-being of former foster youths age 18 to 21 throughout their first eight years of independent living. The study focused on foster youths, typically considered high risk due to the factors that led to foster care placement, transitioning to adulthood who are discharged from foster care at age 18 in most states (Courtney, Terao, & Bost , 2004, p. 3).
The limited available research suggests that these youths “have limited education and employment experience, relatively poor mental and physical health, and a relatively high likelihood of experiencing unwanted outcomes such as homelessness, incarceration, and non-marital pregnancy (Collins, 2001; McDonald , Allen, Westerfelt, & Piliavin, 1996, (as quoted by Courtney, Terao, & Bost , 2004, p.3)).
By 2008, federal funding to states for transitioning foster youth included post-secondary education and training vouchers, reimbursement for foster care maintenance for eligible youths until age 21, and mandates to assist these youth in developing a self-directed transition plan during the 90 days prior to exiting care. These changes to federal policy were due, in part, to findings from the Midwest Study (Courtney et al., 2011). Although these changes appeared promising, the $140 billion translated into only about $1400 per youth, hardly enough to pay for the services needed (Courtney, 2005).
Social problems addressed by the study
The 20,000 adolescents leaving the foster care system each year, must attempt to live independently, and face multiple challenges. Many removed from their homes after suffering abuse or neglect, come primarily from urban areas and are from ethnic backgrounds with families that lack economic and social resources. “A growing body of research on outcomes for this population places them at increased risk for homelessness, victimization, incarceration, unemployment, early pregnancy, poverty, and mental health problems“ (Courtney & Hughes Heuring, 2005, as cited by Samuels, 2008, p. 8). According to the L.A. Times (2012), the average youth aging out of foster care at age 18 in Los Angeles County will use $13,000 worth of mental health, medical, criminal justice, and social services by age 22. During that same four-year span, former foster youths with juvenile justice system involvement will use $35,000 in similar services.
Homeless is a prevalent problem among newly discharged youths. New York City reached an agreement after two years of negotiations to settle a lawsuit brought by four former foster youths in danger of becoming homeless. Under the agreement, the city’s child services agency will work with foster care agencies to create permanent housing plans for youths living in foster care and monitor young adults discharged...