Young adults with histories of foster care or juvenile justice custody experience poor outcomes across a number of domains, on average, relative to their peers. While government funding for services targeting these groups of young people has increased in recent years, research on the effectiveness of such services is limited, and few of the programs that have been rigorously tested have been found to improve outcomes.
The Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation is testing whether the Transitional Living program, operated by the social service organization Youth Villages, makes a difference in the lives of young people with histories of foster care or juvenile justice custody. The program, which was renamed “YVLifeSet” in April 2015, is intended to help these young people make a successful transition to adulthood by providing intensive, individualized, and clinically focused case management, support, and counseling.
The evaluation uses a rigorous random assignment design and is set in Tennessee, where Youth Villages operates its largest Transitional Living program. From October 2010 to October 2012, more than 1,300 young people were assigned, at random, to either a program group, which was offered the Transitional Living program’s services, or to a control group, which was not offered those services. Using survey and administrative data, the evaluation team is measuring outcomes for both groups over time to assess whether Transitional Living services led to better outcomes for program group youth compared with the control group’s outcomes.
This is the second major report in the evaluation. An earlier report provides a detailed description of the Transitional Living program model and assesses its implementation. This second report assesses whether the program affected key outcomes during the first year after young people enrolled in the study. It shows that the Transitional Living program improved outcomes in three of the six domains that it was designed to affect. The program boosted earnings, increased housing stability and economic well-being, and improved some outcomes related to health and safety. However, it did not improve outcomes in the areas of education, social support, or criminal involvement.
These results indicate that the Transitional Living program can improve multiple outcomes for young adults with histories of foster care or juvenile justice custody, a notable finding given the paucity of documented positive effects for programs that serve these populations. While the individual effects of the program were modest, their breadth across several domains is consistent with the highly individualized nature of the program model, which is designed to address the wide variety of needs and circumstances of the young people it serves. These findings set the stage for additional analysis using a second year of follow-up data and an assessment of the program’s benefits relative to its costs. Those results will be available in 2016.