Problem Set #6: Efficiency and Equity
Foster Care Youth in Transition
You are evaluating a county program for the transition of foster children out of the foster care system. The county has long drawn criticism for its poor preparation of youth to leave foster care at age 18. An experimental “Youth in Transition” (YIT) program was put in place five years ago, after an audit of court records found that half of foster youth did not have a court-ordered transitional plan.
The Youth in Transition program combines an array of vocational and support services as well as assignment of youth to adult mentors who are themselves former foster youth. A vocational counselor is assigned to work with the foster youth and his/her supervising social worker and foster parents to put in place a transition plan by age 16. The program also places youth in supervised part-time employment; and provides educational supports and career counseling for two years prior to emancipation at age 18. These practices have been shown by previous research to increase the likelihood of graduating from high school and attending college, with positive effects on long-term earning potential. Early employment experience—however limited—substantially reduces the likelihood of adverse life events such as homelessness, or criminal justice involvement.
While the county was unable for political reasons to assign foster youth randomly, the program director argued that the variability in the assignment of foster youth to foster agencies meant that they could base the experimental design on the nonprofit agencies that oversee foster family homes under contract with the county. Hence, half of the county’s foster agencies were assigned randomly into the control group, and continued with traditional approaches to youth transition services, while half participated in the transitional youth program. The traditional program requires the social worker to work with the youth to develop a transitional plan that is approved by the courts. Implementation of the plan is the responsibility of the youth with help from his or her foster parents and supervising social worker.
Collectively the control and experimental agencies served 200 youth (100 per agency). Follow up information was collected for the five-year period following conclusion of the two-year program. Worksheet I in the Excel workbook summarizes the programmatic costs in the traditional and experimental programs, as well as the measured differences between the two groups on various outcome measures. Assume observed differences in the programs are statistically significant.
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