Opportunity Passport Helps Young People Exiting Foster Care Achieve Economic Gains

Posted December 4, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog opportunitypassporthelpsyoungpeople 2017

The Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Initiative’s Oppor­tu­ni­ty Pass­port™ matched-sav­ings pro­gram sup­ports young peo­ple who are tran­si­tion­ing from fos­ter care into adult­hood by help­ing them secure employ­ment and increase their finan­cial capa­bil­i­ty. Yet, the eco­nom­ic progress that a young per­son expe­ri­ences varies by their race, eth­nic­i­ty and group place­ment or fos­ter care place­ment his­to­ry, accord­ing to a new report from the Casey Foundation.

Oppor­tu­ni­ty Pass­port incen­tivizes work and sav­ings to help young peo­ple gain finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty as they exit fos­ter care. It’s a need­ed pro­gram. Work expe­ri­ence enables young peo­ple to take on respon­si­bil­i­ties while learn­ing how to prob­lem solve and man­age their finances — skills that are crit­i­cal to lead­ing a pro­duc­tive and finan­cial­ly secure life. Nation­al­ly, only about 10% of young peo­ple ages 16 to 24 are unem­ployed. But among young peo­ple aging out of fos­ter care, unem­ploy­ment rates are as high as 69%, with black and Lati­no youths more like­ly to be unem­ployed than their white peers.

Casey’s report, The Eco­nom­ic Well-Being of Youth Tran­si­tion­ing From Fos­ter Care, exam­ines employ­ment data from Oppor­tu­ni­ty Pass­port par­tic­i­pants around the coun­try and com­pares how they are far­ing in rela­tion to non­par­tic­i­pat­ing peers who are exit­ing fos­ter care as well as peers who are not in fos­ter care.

The report focus­es on par­tic­i­pants who were at least 16 years old and had com­plet­ed at least three Oppor­tu­ni­ty Pass­port sur­veys since 2008. For par­tic­i­pants who made this cut, researchers gath­ered data on sev­er­al char­ac­ter­is­tics: employ­ment sta­tus, full-time sta­tus, aver­age hours worked per week, hourly wages and train­ing expe­ri­ences. Data ana­lysts then mea­sured how these char­ac­ter­is­tics pro­gressed over time and termed this change eco­nom­ic progression.”

One key — and promis­ing — find­ing? Forty per­cent of Oppor­tu­ni­ty Pass­port par­tic­i­pants report­ed work­ing. Non­par­tic­i­pat­ing peers exit­ing fos­ter care were less like­ly to be employed (33%) and so were their gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion peers (30%).

But not all pro­gram par­tic­i­pants achieved equal gains:

  • Young par­ents did not expe­ri­ence the same eco­nom­ic pro­gres­sion as their non-par­ent peers.
  • Young peo­ple with more fos­ter care place­ments expe­ri­enced less eco­nom­ic pro­gres­sion from ages 19 to 21 than did peers with few­er fos­ter care placements.
  • From ages 16 to 21, black par­tic­i­pants trailed their white peers in terms of employ­ment gains.

These find­ings point to the need for strate­gies that increase equi­table employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, accord­ing to San­dra Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez, direc­tor of the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive. For more young peo­ple to have a chance to suc­ceed when tran­si­tion­ing from fos­ter care to adult­hood, they must have equi­table access to employ­ment and edu­ca­tion,” she says.

Casey’s report tells how pol­i­cy­mak­ers and ser­vice providers can help lev­el this play­ing field, includ­ing offer­ing the fol­low­ing recommendations:

  • Ensure young peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced fos­ter care and employ­ment and edu­ca­tion­al chal­lenges are engaged in design­ing solu­tions that can advance their well-being and success.
  • Help young peo­ple build sup­port­ive, car­ing rela­tion­ships with adults who sup­port their career devel­op­ment, edu­ca­tion and employ­ment goals.
  • Encour­age col­leges and oth­er post­sec­ondary insti­tu­tions to cre­ate hous­ing options that are sup­port­ive of youths who have been in fos­ter care, such as offer­ing two-bed­room apart­ment options that allow sib­lings to stay with the stu­dent and pro­vid­ing year-round hous­ing to reduce the risk of home­less­ness dur­ing school breaks.

Our rec­om­men­da­tions point to spe­cif­ic, tan­gi­ble actions that are prov­ing suc­cess­ful and that need to be tak­en up more wide­ly to ensure young peo­ple have what they need for well-being and suc­cess as they tran­si­tion into adult­hood,” says Gasca-Gonzalez.

Read or down­load the report

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