Performance Improvement 2010. Assure Safety and Well-Being of Children and Youth


A national longitudinal study by Research Triangle Institute sought to understand how young adults who had been involved in the child welfare system fared compared to others.  While these young adults appeared similar to their peers across the United States in several ways (for example percent reporting good physical health, employment, contact with biological family), there were stark differences.  Young adult females in the child welfare system were about twice as likely to be overweight or obese, almost twice as likely to report fair or poor health, and more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence.  Young adults involved in the child welfare system had academic achievement scores significantly below national norms, and were more likely to be living in poverty. (9159)

An analysis examined national longitudinal data to determine what had been the cognitive and socio-emotional development of children who have had contact with the child welfare system.  Both preschool and school age children showed much greater levels of developmental risk than children in normative samples.  Despite the need for services, less than 3 percent of preschool age children and approximately 18 percent of school age children in this sample were receiving mental health services.  Of those children who showed developmental risk on at least one of the cognitive, academic, or language development measures, only 54 percent of preschool children and 12 percent of school age children were receiving special educational services.  For those with socio-emotional functioning risks, only 25 percent of preschool children and 13 percent of school age children were receiving special education services. (9161)

Another study, using the same database looked at what were the characteristics of children from birth to 2 who entered in the child welfare system.  More than half of the children were living in poverty, which is much higher than the older children from the larger sample and the national average of young children.  More than half of these children were classified as having a high risk for developmental delays or neurological impairment, and between one quarter and one half were at risk cognitively.  Despite the high risk levels, only one in eight had been tested for special education services, and only 3 percent were receiving early intervention services.  (9162)

To understand what should be assessed in early childhood and how, Congress requested a study of developmental outcomes and appropriate assessment of young children (birth to age 5).  A committee of experts identified five outcome domains: physical well-being and motor development, social and emotional development, approaches to learning, language development, and cognition and general knowledge.  Effective assessment can inform teaching and program improvement, and contribute to better outcomes for children, while poorly done assessments can have negative consequences for children and programs.  The committee stressed the importance of using a qualified person to select the best instrument for assessment (taking into account psychometric properties of the instrument), and ensuring that everyone involved in the assessment process, from the assessor to the analyst, has proper training and support. (9163 and 9164)

As part of the Multi-Site Evaluation of Foster Youth Programs, the Early Start to Emancipation Preparation Tutoring (ESTEP) program outcomes in Los Angeles County were evaluated.  No statistically significant differences were found on educational outcomes between ESTEP and control groups at the second follow-up although youths assigned to the ESTEP group were more likely to have received educational tutoring at home than control group youths.  The program was created in 1998 to improve reading and math skills of foster youth age 14-15.  The program offers a mentoring relationship with the tutor and access to other independent living workshops.  (9168 and 9170)

The Urban Institute examined the experiences of vulnerable youth transitioning to adulthood and their connections to school and employment, using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997.  With regard to Latino youth transitions, the study found that second-generation Latinos are more connected to employment, community and family life in their transitions to young adulthood than native-born non-Hispanic black and third-generation Latino youth. When examining all youth from low-income families (incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level), the results show that these youth engage in more risk behaviors during adolescence than youth from middle-income and high-income families, and roughly one in five youth from low-income families either do not connect to school or work, or connect for only extremely short periods of time, between the ages of 18 and 24.  For youth suffering from depression and anxiety, the study found that these youth engage in more risk behaviors during adolescence than other youth, and as young adults, less than half of youth with depression/anxiety consistently connect to school and/or the labor market between the ages of 18 and 24.  The study also examined youth from distressed neighborhoods and found that these youth do not engage in more risk behaviors during adolescence than youth from non-distressed neighborhood.  Still, about one in three youth from distressed neighborhoods are consistently-connected to work or school between the ages of 18 and 24, compared with nearly two in three youth from non-distressed neighborhoods. (9348, 9349, 9350, 9351, 9352 and 9353

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