It’s hard enough being a teenager, but what if you are also in the Texas Foster Care System? It is well documented that youth who have been in care are at higher risk for adverse outcomes as they transition to adulthood. Many of these youth also have complex trauma histories which have negative implications on their mental and physical health. These young adults often experience financial difficulties, homelessness, end up in the juvenile justice system, and or have early or unplanned pregnancies. The recent discussions on how to improve the Texas Foster Care system have yet to address the individual experiences of those who are spending their adolescence in care. The way teens experience foster care matters. Good experiences and positive relationships are necessary to establish a good sense of wellbeing, which can strengthen permanency efforts, avoid behavioral issues, and ensure better outcomes for youth in care. Many child welfare professionals are deeply concerned about the significant number of youth who “age-out” at age 18. Annually, over 20,000 teens emancipate from foster care in the United States. Given the risks associated with aging-out, child welfare professionals must be informed about how experiences in foster care impact the youth’s trajectory through the system and into emerging adulthood.
That’s what the Texas Youth Permanency Study (TYPS) aims to achieve. TYPS is a 5-year study that will assess the experiences youth have in foster care and investigate the outcomes of these youth. The goal of TYPS is to establish valuable knowledge that is necessary to understand how to make the best decisions for teens in foster care—both in the short and long term. TYPS is funded by Upbring, and the research will be conducted by Monica Faulkner, Tina Adkins and Tymothy Belseth from our Institute and Dr. Alfred Perez from California State University, Stanislaus.
There are three permanency outcomes for children in foster care. They can reunite with their family and leave the system, be adopted, or age out of care. There is some longitudinal research that has tracked the outcomes of youth who have aged out, but to date, there has been no research that compares the three different permanency outcomes. TYPS is a longitudinal study that will follow older foster youth from their early teen years into early adulthood, past the age of 18. We know that safe, stable and nurturing relationships are essential to a foster youth’s success and critical to child maltreatment prevention, but what role does it play in the main developmental factors as youth in foster care emerge into adulthood? TYPS will also explore how relationships play a part in these young adults’ lives along with how their permanency outcomes impact their health, life skills, education, safety, and vocational outcomes. The study will find this out through the use of individual interviews and focus groups.
“We have no idea what the long-term outcomes of these youth are,” says Tym Belseth, TYPS Research Coordinator. “This is an opportunity for kids to share their personal experiences, and use their voice to improve the foster care system.” Tym began interviewing older foster youth about their experiences this month. The research team will analyze interviews to explore common themes, ideas, and sentiments expressed by study participants. The data collected through this study will allow for the research team to better understand the youth’s perception of foster care, their experiences, and which factors impact the youth’s ability to form relationships with others.
The study has the potential to provide the child welfare field with valuable information that can change the system for better, help foster youth, and prevent future child abuse and neglect. A new website has been launched to inform and recruit participants. You can also follow the study on Facebook and Twitter. If you have any questions about the study, you can reach Tym at Tymothy.firstname.lastname@example.org.