On Monday, May 23 as part of the ongoing efforts to talk about foster care for Foster Care Month, Youth Villages and the American Youth Policy Forum sponsored a briefing, Scaling Up active practices for youth transitioning out of foster care”.
UVLifeSet is a program started originally 1999 by Youth Villages. The goal of the initiative is to assist in a successful transition to independence for youth in foster care. Under the program (officially named in 2015) a specialist helps the young person develop and achieve their goals for the future. The program targets young people age 17 to 22 with participants remaining in the program on average between 6 to 12 months. Key to the initiative are the specialist or caseworkers who work with the young people under a specific model. Caseworkers have small caseloads with only 6 to 10 young people. The casework involves face-to-face meetings with the young person at least once a week and they are also available 24 hours seven days a week in case of emergencies.
Since 1999, over 8500 young people have been served by the Youth Villages program. Currently the initiative is offered in the state of Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee.
The briefing focused on a research based on the VE LifeSet program. Panel speakers included moderator David Sanders, Casey Family Programs, Mark Courtney, Professor University of Chicago, Mike Leach, Independent Living, Tennessee Department of Children Services, Jeff Rainey, YMCA Seattle, and Justice Rutherford, participant YVLifeset
In his presentation Mark Courtney, who has overseen the evaluation discussed some of the ongoing finding. The model has had positive impacts on increased earnings, reduced housing instability and economic hardship, and improved health and safety outcomes. According to the research there were no significant impact in the area of educational attainment, social support, criminal behaviors. Specific findings indicated that the program boosted earnings by 17%, increased housing stability and economic well-being including a 22% decrease in experiencing homelessness, improving some primary health and safety outcomes including health mental health and a 30% decrease in partner violence. The research has been conducted by MDRC with the first results released in May 2015.
Some of the key advocacy points promoted by Youth Villages included Congress should promote greater research including demonstration projects to build the evidence base, there should be incentives for states to invest in promising practices such as intensive an individualized and clinically focused services and supports, and Congress should encourage child welfare agencies to evaluate the needs of transitional youth in their state, identify gaps in programming and collaborate with other agencies to conceptualize a more targeted integrated continuum of services.