The Employment Programs and Life Opportunities for Youth (EmPLOY) project was a collaboration between Casey Family Programs and multiple partners at the program, local and state level. This report contains findings and recommendations from EmPLOY.
The evaluation is unique because it sought to identify the frequency that services should be provided to bolster education and employment outcomes in older youth.
In September 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration awarded grants to five states to design and implement programs to improve educational and employment outcomes for older youth from foster care age 16 to 25. The six transition programs chosen by DOL were located in Los Angeles; Pasadena, CA; Houston; Detroit; Chicago; and New York City. When DOL’s funding ended in 2007, Casey Family Programs began funding the project, renaming it EmPLOY.
The purpose of the project was to identify and capture practices that inform program developers, practitioners and policymakers throughout the workforce development, education and child welfare systems. The project was a combination of both a quantitative evaluation (n=788) and a qualitative study (n=92) that addressed the following questions:
- What were the demographics and foster care experiences of participants served?
- What services were provided, and what was the relationship between services provided and participant outcomes in education and employment?
- Which program elements did stakeholders view as being essential to the attainment of education and employment outcomes?
- What were the best practices of cross-systems collaboration?
Findings from the report identified what services were provided to meet the needs of youth as they transition out of care:
- The service provided most frequently was goal assistance (90%).
- Three in four participants also received career planning (73%), job search skills (72%), academic assessment (71%), and transportation services (73%).
- A little over half of the participants received conflict resolution services (51%), and two in three received money management services (67%).
- Education services that were predictive of high school diploma achievement, GED attainment, and postsecondary education enrollment were school tours, GED preparation, and postsecondary tutoring.
Three program elements that staff identified as supporting employment outcomes were having a job developer on site, providing paid work experience, and providing job retention services.
EmPLOY recommendations inform clinical practice, identify the types of services programs should provide, highlight child welfare partnerships to develop, and suggest changes to current policy. Examples of recommendations include:
- Basic concrete and psychological needs must be addressed first.
- Provide basic independent living skills to youth before they begin transitioning out of care.
- Engage family members.
- Access to school tours, GED preparation, and postsecondary tutoring is crucial.
- Employ an on-site job developer, provide paid work experiences, and offer ongoing job retention services.
- A multisystem approach that fosters relationships with other community agencies allows greater access to services (e.g., Community Mental Health, Department of Housing).
This project is an example of how Casey Family Programs collaborated with multiple partners at the program, local and state level to improve the well-being and self-sufficiency of youth as they transition out of foster care. As Casey works with partners to identify promising practices for older youth, changes to programs and policy can help ensure that children in foster care and adults who grew up in foster care have equitable access to education and employment services.
In addition to the full report, please see the executive summary, appendices and an academic poster on the quantitative evaluation presented in October 2011 at the American Public Health Association Conference in Washington, D.C., and a slide deck (see pages 14 through 23) of the quantitative evaluation presented in March of 2012 at the Society for Research on Adolescence.