How Are Arizona Youth Living in Out of Home Placements Really Doing?

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How Are Arizona Youth Living in Out-of-Home Placement Really Doing?
Written by: Julia Hernández, PhD, MSW

What is NYTD?
The National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) is a Federal reporting system designed to track youth and the independent living services they receive from states as they prepare to transition out of the foster care system.

In 1999, Public Law 106-169 established the John H. Chaffee Foster Care Independence Program, providing states with flexible funding for programs that help youth transition from foster care to independence. As a condition of receiving funding, the law requires states to track the services they provide and the outcomes of youth who participate in Chafee funded programs. In 2008, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the federal agency tasked with overseeing the administration of Chaffee funding, developed NYTD to meet this provision. As part of NYTD, states are required to survey youth in foster care at ages 17, 19, and 21.

Why does it matter?
NYTD presents an opportunity for youth to share their experiences in foster care while providing information that will help improve programs and services for youth transitioning out of foster care. It helps the state identify areas where youth are thriving and areas where youth can benefit from additional supports.

Who is involved?
In Arizona, the Department of Child Safety has partnered with the ASU Center for Child Well-being and the ASU Child Welfare Education Program to survey foster youth who are transitioning into adulthood. All youth who turn 17 between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020 and who are in foster care at the time of their 17th birthday are eligible to participate.

In the first six months of the current project year – October 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020 – the Arizona NYTD team surveyed 204 youth about various topics including finances, education, and their experiences in foster care.

What did we find?
Overall, youth report feeling very safe in their placements – rating their safety an average of 9 on a 1 to 10 scale where 1 means not all safe and 10 means completely safe. Almost 90% report that they are currently enrolled in school; 92% also report having at least one adult in their life that they can turn to for support. When asked to name up to three things that are going really well in their life, youth commonly cited school, family, and friends.

Almost three-quarters of youth reported that they have been very or somewhat involved in the development of their Transition to Adulthood Plan, which outlines the plan for meeting the youth’s needs as they move into adulthood and independence.

Looking to the future, almost 80% of youth plan to attend college or vocational school post-high school. Youth plan to pursue a variety of careers including author, detective, graphic designer, and dental hygienist. When asked to name the three things they are most looking forward to in the future, youth mentioned going to college, having a career, and starting families of their own.

Youth, however, noted a number of barriers that may make it more difficult for them to achieve their future goals. One-third of youth foresee the cost of attending school and the need to work full time as barriers to pursuing post-high school education and training. About one-quarter of youth report that not having transportation to and from school or training programs will be a barrier for them.

What does this mean?
Overall, youth report that a number of aspects of their lives are going well, including school and their placements. A majority of youth are maintaining relationships with family members and friends who are important to them, have plans for continued education, and are involved in planning for their future. However, there are areas for improvement. A small proportion of youth were not aware of their Transition to Adulthood Plan. Youth also foresee a number of barriers to pursuing future education. Both these areas present opportunities for further education about the resources available to foster youth as they pursue higher education and for engagement in services that prepare youth for independence.

May is Foster Care Awareness Month, to learn more about what the Center for Child Well-Being has been doing to support Foster Youth in Arizona, please visit our Foster Month Awareness Page