Boston University School of Social Work receives grant to study post-foster care adolescents

Team to use funding to track youth who leave care at 18

(BOSTON) -- In an effort to examine the experiences of youth after they leave foster care, the School of Social Work (SSW) at Boston University recently received a 1-year, $115,000 grant from the Massachusetts Youth Transitioning to Independent Living Task Force. The study will focus specifically on tracking the outcomes of adolescents who shift out of care at age 18.

According to Mary Elizabeth Collins, associate professor of social welfare policy at BU and the study's lead investigator, young adults leaving foster care are a population that requires intensive study and intervention for several reasons. Previous research has noted high rates of unemployment, homelessness, poor health, and limited educational attainment. In addition, because they have spent large portions of their lives in substitute care and generally come from families with multiple problems, these young people rarely have access to the type of support provided by most biological families.

"The project aims to gather insight into the quantity and quality of services these children received or utilized while in foster care, the outcomes achieved within 1-2 years of leaving custody, and the policies and programs needed to improve their long-term outcomes," said Dr. Collins.

In order to obtain this vital information, the study consists of several components that will provide a comprehensive picture of the current situation of this group, including:

  • A series of interviews with youth and former caregivers regarding the transition experience
  • Analyses of administrative data to understand the scope of the problems and circumstances these youth face
  • Interviews with key policymakers, state agency personnel, and foster care program directors to understand the strengths and weaknesses of current responses to serving this population.

"Increasingly, federal and state policymakers are recognizing the needs of transition-age foster care youth. It is our hope that the information obtained through this study will have the potential to influence the development of further policies and programs for this population in Massachusetts," added Cassandra Clay, clinical professor of social work and co-investigator.

Collins anticipates that initial findings from the research will be available in about one year.

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The School of Social Work at Boston University is one of the oldest schools of social work in the country and is known for its research and training in the areas of substance abuse, gerontology, health and mental health, and children and youth, and for the involvement of its faculty in community-based projects.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU contains 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school's research and teaching mission.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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