Program

Dec 02, 2015

OVERVIEW

The Massachusetts Adolescent Outreach Program for Youths in Intensive Foster Care (MA Outreach) program assists teenage intensive foster care youths in preparing to live independently and to achieve permanency after exiting care.  The goals of the program are to help youths earn high school diplomas, continue education, avoid non-marital childbirth, avoid high-risk behaviors, avoid incarceration, gain employment, attain self-sufficiency, and avoid homelessness.  Other goals include supporting youths’ participation in higher education, achieving permanency through a connection to a caring adult, and identifying a support network.  Participation in the MA Outreach program had a statistically significant positive impact on enrolling in college, persisting in college for more than one year, staying in foster care, having a driver’s license, and having a birth certificate, relative to those who did not participate.  The program had no other statistically significant impacts.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:  Youth in intensive foster care

The Massachusetts Adolescent Outreach Program for Youths in Intensive Foster Care (MA Outreach) helps to prepare teenage foster youths for independent living and to achieve permanency after exiting Department of Children and Families (DCF) care.  Goals of the program include helping the youths earn high school diplomas, continue education, gain employment and attain self-sufficiency, while avoiding non-marital childbirth, high-risk behaviors, incarceration, and homelessness.  The program also supports youths’ participation in higher education, achieving permanency through a connection to a caring adult, and identifying support networks.  Program services are based on a youth development model and are individualized for each youth served.  Each participant is paired with an MA Outreach worker, who may help youths with a variety of tasks, including obtaining driver’s licenses, applying to colleges, and gaining employment.  Some of these services are referrals to other organizations, while at other times the MA Outreach workers assists the youth directly, such as by helping them to complete employment applications.  The program is relationship-based and caseloads are limited to 15 youth, emphasizing a trusting connection between the youth and his or her MA Outreach worker.  When a youth is selected for services, the MA Outreach worker calls them and tries to make arrangements to meet in a location convenient to the youth, such as their home, the worker’s office, a coffee shop, or other public place. Outreach workers’ usually meet with the youth once a week.  On occasions when a youth misses an appointment, the worker will follow up by calling his or her cell phone or will drop by his or her job, school, or house.  Youth may participate in the MA Outreach program while they are in DCF care and priority is given to those approaching their eighteenth birthdays.  The youth in the study detailed below were enrolled in MA Outreach for an average of 22 months, which included an average of 16 months of active service provision, followed by six months of tracking.

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

Evaluated Population:  The study included 194 youth born between August 1985 and December 1990.  To be eligible for inclusion in the study, the youth had to be in intensive foster care (formerly known as therapeutic foster care), have a service plan goal of independent living or long term substitute care, and be deemed appropriate for program services by the youth’s DCF caseworker.  One-third of the study participants were male, one-quarter black, 72.7 percent white, and 26.8 percent Hispanic.  The average age was 16.9 years.

Approach:  The study participants (N=194) were assigned by paired random assignment to participate in the MA Outreach program (n =97) or to be in the control group (n=97) that received intensive foster care services as usual.  The main outcomes of interest were perceived preparedness for various tasks associated with independent living, and in the areas of education, employment, and economic well-being.  Data concerning a number of other domains, including physical and mental health, substance abuse, level of social support, living situation and homelessness, preparedness and job preparedness, documentation and accounts, pregnancy, delinquency, and deviant behavior were also collected.  Data were collected by means of questionnaire-based interviews with the youths and included the main outcomes, as well as data on living situation and homelessness, delinquency, pregnancy, and documentation and accounts.  Youth were followed for two years. They were interviewed in-person at entry into the study (baseline) and once each year after that.  For educational outcomes, additional data acquired from the StudentTracker Service of the National Student Clearinghouse were used to supplement the information found in the youth survey.  There were no statistically significant differences between the Outreach and control groups at baseline.

Results:  Participation in the Outreach program had a statistically significant positive impact on enrolling in college (ES=0.26 StudentTracker, ES=0.38 self-report), persisting in college for more than one year (ES=0.39), staying in foster care (ES=0.35), having a driver’s license (ES=0.47), and having a birth certificate (ES=0.24). The program had no other statistically significant impacts.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Courtney, M., Zinn, A., Johnson, H., and Malm, K. (2011). Evaluation of the Massachusetts Adolescent Outreach Program for Youths in Intensive Foster Care: Final Report. OPRE Report # 2011-14. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

KEYWORDS: Youth (16+), Males and Females (Co-ed), Clinic/Provider Based, School-Based, Home-Based, Counseling/Therapy, Employment/Earnings, Social Skills/Life Skills, foster care

Program information last updated on 12/2/15