Since 2015, Child Trends has served as the data and evaluation partner to the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. 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 17 Jim Casey Initiative sites. OPPS contains a wide array of information on young people with foster care experience, including demographics, parenting, foster care history, and young adult outcomes (e.g., education, employment, and housing), as well as youth engagement, permanent relationships, and social capital. In addition to OPPS, Child Trends manages the Opportunity Passport® Data System (OPDS), which is designed to allow 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, 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 both the national Initiative and to sites, including support to implement continuous quality improvement processes that contribute to improved services and supports to young people with foster care experience. Examples include monthly webinars on setting targets for key indicators, data visualization techniques, creating and adapting measures for data collection with this population, and sharing and applying research.
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), have changed practice in public agencies, and have informed the field regarding important gaps in the knowledge base on older youth.
For the first time, the Jim Casey Initiative will allow researchers to use the linked OPPS and OPDS data, described above, to answer important research questions. An important feature of this dataset is its ability to link with other administrative datasets, further extending its ability to inform the child welfare field. The data will be available in late 2020, so please check back for the latest news on this important new resource.