Supporting Expectant and Parenting Youth in Foster Care and Their Children

Posted November 28, 2014
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog Supporting Expectantand Parenting Youth 2014

As more child wel­fare sys­tems extend fos­ter care to the age of 21, these agen­cies will have an increased num­ber of expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth in their sys­tems. These young peo­ple will con­front mul­ti­ple obsta­cles as they bal­ance their own tran­si­tion into adult­hood with the respon­si­bil­i­ties of becom­ing nur­tur­ing par­ents. Rec­og­niz­ing the urgency of improv­ing out­comes for these youth and their chil­dren, the Foun­da­tion part­nered with the Cen­ter for the Study of Social Pol­i­cy (CSSP) to devel­op and test a com­pre­hen­sive set of pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions geared to child wel­fare sys­tems. New York City’s Admin­is­tra­tion for Children’s Ser­vices and the Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices divi­sion of the Sacra­men­to Coun­ty (Calif.) Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices have been select­ed to imple­ment and test these pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions by devel­op­ing a multi­gen­er­a­tional approach for expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth and their chil­dren. 

Twice the Oppor­tu­ni­ty: Pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions to sup­port expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth in fos­ter care and their chil­dren, out­lines key ele­ments to guide pol­i­cy­mak­ers and child wel­fare admin­is­tra­tors in devel­op­ing a set of com­pre­hen­sive strate­gies to improve out­comes for these young families. 

As the two juris­dic­tions begin imple­men­ta­tion, all activ­i­ties will be tracked and mon­i­tored with a strong focus on the fol­low­ing three pol­i­cy areas:

  • Data
    Child wel­fare sys­tems cur­rent­ly lack a con­sis­tent and reli­able source of data for expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth in fos­ter care and their chil­dren, which com­pro­mis­es the system’s abil­i­ty to under­stand their com­plex needs and iden­ti­fy strate­gies to address them. CSSP’s pol­i­cy guide rec­om­mends the inclu­sion of a data point to trig­ger entry for data col­lec­tion and track­ing with­in admin­is­tra­tive data sys­tems. This is a pow­er­ful tool to iden­ti­fy the needs of these young fam­i­lies, to track and doc­u­ment pro­gram out­comes, to assess a policy’s impact and to com­mu­ni­cate how they are far­ing com­pared to expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth not in fos­ter care. Sacra­men­to and New York City each will put in place sus­tain­able strate­gies for ongo­ing data col­lec­tion and analysis. 
  • Evi­dence-based and evi­dence-informed practice 
    To sup­port these young fam­i­lies, child wel­fare sys­tems need a range of evi­dence-rich ser­vices that are respon­sive to the devel­op­men­tal needs of ado­les­cents and young chil­dren. CSSP rec­om­mends that all poli­cies and prac­tices be informed by research, evi­dence of effec­tive­ness and cred­i­ble the­o­ry. As part of the ongo­ing work to sup­port child wel­fare sys­tems in achiev­ing results on behalf of these youth and their chil­dren, CSSP has com­piled a com­pendi­um of evi­dence-based, evi­dence-informed ser­vices for this pop­u­la­tion. This tool allows juris­dic­tions to eas­i­ly iden­ti­fy effec­tive strate­gies geared toward their par­tic­u­lar objec­tives in address­ing the unique needs of these young fam­i­lies, and will be used to iden­ti­fy appro­pri­ate pro­grams in Sacra­men­to and New York City. 
  • Per­ma­nen­cy and Fatherhood 
    Giv­en the com­plex demands of tran­si­tion­ing to adult­hood while tak­ing care of a child, young par­ents need the sup­port of a per­ma­nent fam­i­ly more than ever. CSSP’s pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions under­pin the val­ue of ensur­ing that these youth and their chil­dren have access to all per­ma­nen­cy ser­vices and are not exclud­ed from options due to their par­ent­ing sta­tus. Addi­tion­al­ly, it sug­gests poli­cies that set expec­ta­tions for father iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and engage­ment to help fathers become a pos­i­tive force in their children’s lives. We expect to learn from New York City and Sacra­men­to about their efforts to increase both per­ma­nen­cy and father­hood engage­ment for these young families. 

In addi­tion to the areas above, the doc­u­ment out­lines key ele­ments of vol­un­tary return poli­cies for youth who exit fos­ter care pri­or to 21, as well as ele­ments of key pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions for address­ing the health, safe­ty, per­ma­nen­cy, edu­ca­tion­al, hous­ing and finan­cial needs of both the youth in fos­ter care and their children.
CSSP and the Foun­da­tion are com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing child wel­fare sys­tems in design­ing poli­cies and prac­tices that address the needs of these youth and their chil­dren and cre­ate a sys­tem of oppor­tu­ni­ties through which they can thrive.

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