Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dual Involvement in Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice Creates Major Struggles in Adulthood

Dual Involvement in Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice Connects to Major Struggles in Adulthood: Small number of troubled "crossover youths" carry high public cost, report finds
November 09, 2011 by John Kelly

Los Angeles youths who exit both foster care and juvenile justice earn less as young adults and cost the public more than youths who only exit foster care, and are more than twice as likely to have been treated for a serious mental illness, according to a study released today by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

“Young Adult Outcomes of Youth Exiting Dependent Or Delinquent Care In Los Angeles County” found that a sliver of the so-called “crossover” youths account for much of the public costs of the larger group when they are young adults.

The findings are hardly surprising; there is wide recognition that crossover youth fare worse than youths who only come into contact with one agency. But the California study shows that in many cases, the crossover youths experience negative outcomes at twice the rate.

“We didn’t realize crossover youth would have such striking distance,” said Dennis Culhane, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s six authors. “We knew it would find they’d be troubled, but didn’t expect this difference of degree to show up.”

Crossover youths accounted for an average of $35,171 in public service utilization costs, such as being jailed or receiving welfare benefits, which is nearly three times the $12,532 average for other foster youth.

Eighty-two percent received some state benefits – welfare, food stamps or Medicaid – compared with 68 percent of other foster care exiters.

The research suggests that two major factors for the disparity were treatment for mental health disorders and further criminal activity. Four years into adulthood, 24 percent of the crossover youth had been treated for schizophrenia or psychosis; the comparable rate for foster youths was 11 percent.

Two-thirds of the crossover youths had a jail stay in their first four years after foster care; they were three times more likely to land in jail than other foster youths in the study. The average cumulative cost of jail-stays over the first four years of adulthood ranged from $18,430 for child welfare youth to $33,946 for crossover youth.

A quarter of the crossover youth accounted for three quarters of the public costs associated with the group during young adulthood. Culhane said a follow-up study is already in the works to determine whether other factors can help predict which crossover youths will struggle and require high levels of public assistance.

“To the extent you can do that, there is huge potential for offsetting costs” by making better preventative investments, Culhane said. Mental health treatment, he predicts, “is going to be a major factor.”

The study suggests that connecting more crossover youths to employment opportunities is another potential avenue for improvement. After four years, foster youth had earned an average of about $30,000 and crossover youth had earned $14,000. Crossover youth were half as likely to have consistent employment.

The Los Angeles-based Hilton Foundation plans to use the findings of this study to craft a strategy for working with crossover youth and seek approval for a project this winter, said Jeannine Balfour, the foundation’s senior program officer for domestic programs.

Culhane said Los Angeles County, is an ideal place to pilot strategies for helping crossover youths because of the recently passed state law extending foster care until 21 and the fact that the county has an integrated data system for all of its departments.

“That’s very unique,” Culhane said. “You could pilot something, and have immediate information to make sure you’re getting the right people.”

The study used records from thousands of youths who exited foster care from an out-of-home placement in 2002 and 2004, and juvenile records for any youths who exited probation from 2000 to 2006. Those records were then cross-referenced against service utilization data from the county and state agencies that handle health, criminal justice, employment and welfare.

There were a total of 596 youths who exited foster care in one of those years and also exited probation. On most measures of adult outcomes, they fared significantly worse than the youths who came into contact with one system.

The demographics of the crossover kids, two-thirds of whom were male, ran inverse to racial data of the probation-exiting population: African-American youth accounted for 25 percent of probation exiters but more than half (56 percent) of crossover youths; 57 of teens who exited probation were Latino but they account for only 30 percent of crossover youth.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Improved Outcomes Due to Extending Foster Care Until Age 21

New Reports Highlight Improved Outcomes for Older Foster Youth in California Eight County Initiative Provides Promising Strategies for Extension of Foster Care to 21 By the Stuart Foundation; Walter S. Johnson Foundation; California Connected by 25 Initiative Published: Monday, Oct. 31, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 31, 2011 -- /PRNewswire/ -- California's leading funders in child welfare, Stuart Foundation and Walter S. Johnson Foundation, issued two reports today with the results of the six-year California Connected by 25 Initiative.

The Premise and Promise of the California Connected by 25 Initiative and Promising Strategies from the California Connected by 25 Initiative highlighting strategies used by child welfare departments in Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Orange, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Solano, and Stanislaus counties that improved education, housing, and other outcomes for foster youth ages 14 to 24.

"The California Connected by 25 Initiative was an effort to take a group of disconnected youth and connect them to the anchors that make a difference - education, employment, housing, permanency, and financial skills," explained Teri Kook, child welfare director for the Stuart Foundation.

Every year approximately 4,000 youth emancipate from foster care and many do not have safe and affordable housing, a high school diploma, the skills to find work, and relationships with caring adults that all young people need to be successful. While many young people are struggling in this difficult economy, foster youth, lacking the support of family networks, are more likely to be unemployed, suffer from mental health problems, be a victim of crime, go to jail, become homeless and live in poverty.

Data Shows Education and Housing Success:
The initiative was developed to change the trajectory for youth emancipating from the foster care system. Data collected over a three year period in five of the eight counties, 2008-2011, found that:
  • Foster youth that completed some or all of their A-G requirements, the college prep courses needed for admission to a UC or CSU, increased from 31% to 45%;
  • Foster youth passing the high school exit exam (CAHSEE) increased from 44% to 54%; and
  • Foster youth reporting a safe housing plan increased from 53% to 72%
Reports Offer Strategies to Implement New Law Extending Foster Care to 21
The core focus areas and strategies are described in greater detail in the report Promising Strategies from the California Connected by 25 Initiative. The report will be valuable for counties preparing to implement AB 12, California's Fostering Connections to Success Act.

Starting January 1, 2012, foster youth will be able to continue to receive child welfare supports and services past their 18th birthday, provided that they meet certain criteria, including working towards a high school diploma or GED, being employed at least 80 hours a month, going to college, or participating in a vocational or employment program.

Amy Freeman, program officer for the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, noted "Counties implementing AB 12 will need to encourage youth to stay in extended care and then provide the supports and services they need to maintain their eligibility. This initiative offers a starting point for counties and stakeholders looking to better engage youth and enhance services."

Youth Engagement Key Strategy:
One of the most important strategies that evolved from the initiative was youth engagement and empowerment. Although child welfare agencies and other providers work with youth on a daily basis, staff are not always trained in youth engagement and youth involvement in service planning and decision-making is generally not an institutionalized practice.

"Youth are a critical and equal part of all communities," said Lyssa Trujillo, youth engagement technical assistant for the initiative, "The lives of youth belong to themselves, not child welfare workers, and youth must be involved in the decisions that affect their future."

In the current economic climate, most young adults are struggling to support themselves and rely on family support. Removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect and often disconnected from their families and communities, foster youth are at an even greater disadvantage. They lack a safety net to fall back on and face enormous obstacles on their path to adulthood.

"The transition from childhood to adulthood is a hugely significant time in every person's life," said James Anderson, project manager for the California Connected by 25 Initiative, describing the underlying premise of the initiative. "The fact that so many of our emancipating foster youth are leaving care only to become homeless and disconnected is unacceptable. With the lessons learned from the initiative and extending foster care to 21, we have the opportunity to create promising futures."

The California Connected by 25 Initiative report will be highlighted at a conference on November 1, 2011 at The California Endowment Oakland Conference Center.

For more information about the California Connected by 25 Initiative and to read the report, visit www.californiaconnectedby25.org

The Stuart Foundation is dedicated to transforming public education and the child welfare system so that all youth can learn and achieve in school and life. The Foundation is a partner and convener in melding the resources, thinking, and energy necessary to create and sustain system-wide change in California and Washington. It invests in programs and practices that serve as scalable and sustainable models and that inform policy. For more information, visit www.stuartfoundation.org

The Walter S. Johnson Foundation seeks to help youth become successful adults by preparing them to participate fully in their education, their workplaces and their communities. For more information, visit www.wsjf.org

SOURCE: Stuart Foundation; Walter S. Johnson Foundation; California Connected by 25 Initiative

Immigration: A break for foster kids

Immigration: A break for foster kids
San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 4, 2011.

Youngsters who are brought to the United States illegally, and mistreated after they arrive, have gotten a boost from a federal appeals court in fighting deportation orders as adults.

The ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco involves undocumented youths who are placed in long-term foster care because of abuse or neglect, based on a judge’s findings that it would be harmful to return them to their home country. That classification, which allows the youngster to qualify for legal residency, was granted to about 1,500 youths nationwide last year, said attorney Kristen Jackson of the nonprofit Public Counsel, which represented the immigrant in this week’s case.

Her client, Jorge Raul Garcia, had been granted legal status as a teenager in 2000 but was deported to Mexico eight years later after being convicted of two minor thefts in the Los Angeles area. The ruling allows him to return and seek to regain legal residency.

The court said Garcia had a tragic childhood in Mexico — his father was convicted of murdering his mother, and during his youth he suffered an injury that left him brain-damaged. He entered the United States illegally in 1992 at age 8. The court didn’t say who brought him, and Jackson, who is handling his appeal, said she doesn’t know. A year later, Los Angeles County authorities said Garcia had been a victim of severe physical abuse where he was staying, and he was declared a dependent of the court in 1994 and placed in long-term foster care. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and diabetes and attended special education classes in school.

The county also applied to immigration officials for legal residency for Garcia in 1994, but it wasn’t granted for more than five years, a delay that the court said may have been due to a missing birth certificate. He left the foster care program in 2004, at age 20, and a year later was convicted of stealing a bicycle in Long Beach and of shoplifting in Manhattan Beach. After he served jail sentences for both crimes, immigration authorities began deportation proceedings.

Deportation would have been mandatory after a serious felony conviction, but non-citizen legal residents convicted of lesser charges can apply for an exemption if they were “admitted” to the United States at least seven years earlier and have lived here ever since. Immigration courts decided that Garcia had been admitted to the U.S. in 2000, when he was granted legal status, leading to his deportation in mid-2008 because his convictions took place less than seven year later. But on Wednesday, the appeals court said federal law recognizes the long-term foster care program for undocumented immigrants, in which Garcia was placed in 1994, as a type of admission into the United States.

The law’s eligibility requirements show “a congressional intent to assist a limited group of abused children to remain safely in the country with a means to apply” for legal residency, the court said in a 3-0 ruling. Those in Garcia’s category “should not be wrenched away without adequate (legal) process,” the judges said.

It’s the first federal court ruling to address the issue, said Jackson, Garcia’s lawyer. Interested readers can view it at www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2011/11/02/08-73004.pdf

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