One Size Doesn't Fit All: How First Place for Youth is Using Data Science to Better Serve Transition-Age Foster Youth in U.S.

Raising the Bar Research Brief Infographic

New research released today by First Place for Youth draws from precision analytics to offer customized support plans to greatly improve the likelihood that a foster youth will successfully transition to adulthood and earn a living wage. First Place for Youth, a 20-plus-year veteran in the foster youth support world, is using data science and precision analytics to make new predictions about how we better serve transition-age foster youth in the United States. A key focal point of its research entails delivering these personalized plans through a framework of extended care, customized milestones and a clear focus on education to employment.

Every year, nearly 25,000 youth who have grown up in the foster care system turn 18. According to a 2011 study, by age 26: nearly 40%+ of foster youth will experience homelessness and incarceration, and less than 5% will graduate from a four-year college. Not surprisingly, more than half of this vulnerable population will also face unemployment. Like many of their peers, transition-age foster youth benefit greatly from receiving additional support on their paths to self-sufficiency. And, while extending the timeline for foster service eligibility has had tremendous positive outcomes, it has not been tied to college persistence or increased earnings in adulthood.

To illuminate this issue, First Place for Youth collaborated with Dr. Mark Courtney and the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood (CalYOUTH) team to begin identifying the particular aspects of extended care associated with positive outcomes. First Place for Youth also partnered with Peter York, MSSA at BCT Partners, to develop the Youth Success Roadmap Tool, a web-based decision-support system for practitioners. This novel tool uses precision analytics to recommend individualized, interactive service and support roadmaps for transition-age foster youth.

"Some of the most compelling data we found using the roadmap tool indicated that the amount of time youth need to reach self-sufficiency in the program ranges from 1.5 to 5.5 years. This huge range strongly suggests the need for service providers to effectively assess a young person's unique background and recommend a customized roadmap using a racial equity lens," said Peter York, Principal and Chief Data Scientist at BCT Partners.

Within the largest participant group studied, First Place for Youth revealed that when youth were properly supported with a combination of extended care alongside customized services and support, their likelihood of achieving 80% or more of the living wage standard increased from 20% to 80%.

"In this brief, First Place for Youth embodies next-generation nonprofit leadership by answering the call to action and building evidence strategically with like-minded evaluation partners. In taking an actionable approach focused on what best serves young people, First Place for Youth committed to a common evidence plan in service of more effective, equitable outcomes for foster youth, and they delivered. We need more of this in the world," said Kelly Fitzsimmons, founder and Chief Executive, Project Evident.

The investigation illuminated a series of high-impact goals and services that can guide a youth's trajectory towards a living wage. Examples include career progress, good tenancy, length of stay, level of engagement with employment specialists, and self-efficacy and long-term goal setting.

"At the end of the day, it's about growing a more effective and equitable foster care system," said Dr. Erika Van Buren, Vice President of Learning, Evaluation & Strategic Impact at First Place for Youth. "When I look at the future of our organization, I see First Place for Youth as connective tissue between policy, technology and improved outcomes for foster youth across the United States."

ABOUT: Founded in 1998, First Place for Youth envisions a world in which involvement in the foster care system does not limit young people's opportunity to thrive. First Place provides evidence-based, results-driven direct services to more than 1,500 foster youth each year in six California counties and through its My First Place™ Network with partner providers in Boston, New York City, Cincinnati, and Mississippi. 


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Vicki Whitlock
First Place for Youth
510.272.0979 ext. 262

Source: First Place for Youth

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