Increasing attention is being given to how youth who “age-out” of the child welfare system fare in their early adult years. These youth, who upon reaching a given age must statutorily leave the child welfare system from out-of-home placements either in foster care or congregate residential facilities, face a particularly challenging transition to adulthood. The difficulties associated with aging-out of the child welfare system manifest themselves for some in undesired adult outcomes, which prior studies have shown to include increased risks for criminal justice involvement, unemployment, teen pregnancy, behavioral health disorders, homelessness and lower educational attainment.
This report investigates the young adult outcomes of youth who age-out of or otherwise exit Los Angeles County’s child welfare supervised foster care system and/or juvenile probation system. Two cohorts of young adults from both systems were selected for analysis. Within the two cohorts, this study focuses on three groups of youth exiters: The child welfare (CW) group is comprised of youth who exited from a child welfare out of-home placement between the ages of 16 and 21; (ii) the juvenile probation (JP) group is made up of youth who exited from any type of juvenile probation supervision between the ages of 16 and 21; and (iii) the crossover group is comprised of all youth who exited an out-of-home child welfare placement between the ages of 16 and 21 and who also had a record of involvement with the juvenile probation system. The adult outcomes of youth in each of these three groups are analyzed by linking their administrative records from Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and/or Probation Department with administrative databases from seven County departments providing an array of public services to residents of Los Angeles County, as well as from two California statewide agencies.
In performing this investigation, this study features several novel approaches toward examining the adult outcomes of youth aging-out of the child welfare system. While several studies have examined the adult outcomes of this population, there has been no such study looking specifically at adult outcomes among the sub-group of “crossover” youth who are involved in both child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and who may be at a particularly high risk for poor outcomes in adulthood. Despite the concern that has been raised about adult outcomes in this population, no prior studies have looked at adult outcomes of crossover youth, nor among the more general group of children who exit the juvenile justice system as adults. Along with providing findings on the adult outcomes of these latter two groups, this study also provides a basis for outcome comparisons across the three groups among these outcomes. Here, we can assess the assertion that crossover youth represent a group that stands out among their peers who are only involved with either the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, as a particularly at-risk population for undesirable outcomes in adulthood. Additionally, this study looks at outcomes across a variety of public programs and thus offers an opportunity to better understand the relationship and dynamics between a number of adult domains including the educational, occupational, health, mental health, criminal justice and public welfare systems.