Since 2015, Child Trends has served as the data and evaluation partner to the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Jim Casey Initiative works to ensure that all young people ages 14 to 26 with foster care experience have the resources, opportunities, and relationships they need to thrive in young adulthood.
Through this partnership, Child Trends supports the administration of the Opportunity Passport Participant® Survey (OPPS), which collects information from 3,000 young people twice a year across the 16 Jim Casey Initiative sites including Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawai’i, Iowa, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. OPPS contains a wide array of information on young people with foster care experience, including demographics, parenting, foster care history (and justice system involvement, if applicable), and young adult outcomes (e.g., education, employment, physical and mental health, and housing), as well as youth engagement, permanent relationships, financial capability, and social capital. In addition to OPPS, Child Trends manages the Opportunity Passport® Data System (OPDS), which allows sites to record youth-level information on asset purchasing behavior, as well as administrative data on leveraged funding and policies and practice changes related to youth with foster care experience. The two datasets can be linked to allow for important analyses to examine how financial education is related to young adult outcomes (including subpopulations of young people who are parenting or identify as LGBTQ), how asset development is associated with outcomes in those asset development domains, and how different foster care experiences may influence asset development among youth with foster care experience.
As part of its partnership with the Jim Casey Initiative, Child Trends provides support to implement continuous quality improvement processes that contribute to improved services and supports to young people with foster care experience. Examples include webinars on setting racially equitable targets for key indicators, data visualization techniques, creating and adapting measures for data collection with this population, and sharing and applying research for self-evaluation, policy advocacy, and practice improvements.
Child Trends also analyzes the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) Outcomes and Services File and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) to provide comparisons to the Opportunity Passport data. Our analyses have contributed to the success of the Jim Casey Initiative and their partners in improving numerous policies across the country (e.g., passage of extended foster care in multiple states), changed practice in public agencies, elevated awareness of the experiences and challenges of older youth, and informed the field regarding important gaps in the knowledge base on older youth.
For the first time, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative will make its data available to researchers to use the linked OPPS and OPDS dataset, described above, to answer important research questions about young people transitioning from foster care. A key feature of this dataset is its ability to link with other administrative datasets, further extending its ability to inform the child welfare field. These data can be used to examine critical questions about the experiences of young people transitioning out of foster care and into adulthood. The Jim Casey Initiative data are the only data source available that contains information on asset development (e.g., saving for a vehicle, education, housing, etc.) for young people in foster care. Furthermore, it is among just a few comprehensive publicly available datasets containing longitudinal data on foster care experience, young adult outcomes, youth engagement, and social capital (e.g., connections to supportive adults), containing data from 16 states and thousands of young people. The datasets span from 2003 to 2020, with surveys conducted twice each year. Moreover, the dataset now contains important data on internet and technology access; it also includes data on COVID-19, giving researchers the ability to examine young people’s outcomes over time and whether and how they change due to COVID-19. Findings from analyses of this important dataset have the potential to affect child welfare practices and shape policies at the local, state, and federal levels. We hope that a wide range of researchers apply to obtain this dataset, and we welcome applications from both not-yet published and well-established researchers, as well as partnerships between the two or more researchers/institutions.
To obtain the dataset, you must complete an application and provide detailed information on the research project you plan to complete using the data. The application should include information on your research questions, the variables needed, your methods, and your plan for dissemination. You must also provide information about the research team, as only approved members of the research team can use the data (researchers will be granted access to the data by email). We also encourage interested researchers to engage young people with lived experience in foster care to participate as members of the research team. If your application is approved, you will need to sign a data sharing agreement with Child Trends for the use of the data. The data sharing agreement contains information on how the data can be used, stored, and deleted to protect the confidentiality of the young people who entrust us with their information.
We look forward to working with you and increasing the reach of this important resource! If you have questions about the data or process for applying, please reach out to JimCaseySiteSupport@childtrends.org.
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