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Research on the Transition to Adulthood for Marginalized Young People: Implications for Youth Engagement Mark E. Courtney Professor School of Social Service.

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Presentation on theme: "Research on the Transition to Adulthood for Marginalized Young People: Implications for Youth Engagement Mark E. Courtney Professor School of Social Service."— Presentation transcript:

1 Research on the Transition to Adulthood for Marginalized Young People: Implications for Youth Engagement Mark E. Courtney Professor School of Social Service Administration

2 Overview The context for concern: –The changing transition to adulthood for the general population Why are some groups vulnerable? Shared themes across vulnerable groups

3 Transition to Adulthood Presents Exceptional Challenges to Some Limited abilities; difficulty acquiring skills –Youth with disabilities; special education students Unreliable or non-existent familial support –Foster care youth; runaway and homeless youth Tasks of the transition likely to be daunting –Youth with disabilities or mental illness Systems may have exacerbated problems –Formerly incarcerated; special education

4 Focus on Vulnerable Populations Involved in Service Systems Need recognized during childhood and adolescence They have depended on public systems –For assistance and services –Often for many years Transition to adulthood brings loss of support from systems –In some instances phased out –In others, involvement ends abruptly

5 Government Services at the Transition to Adulthood Because no longer children, government assumes less responsibility –Recognize dependence of children, but not dependence of youth in transition Ages 18 - 21: eligibility for services either ends or greatly declines Professionals rarely trained to address special needs of transition period

6 Youth “Aging Out” of Foster Care Youth involved in the juvenile and adult corrections systems Homeless and Runaway Youth Youth Involved in Special Education Youth with Serious Mental Disorders Youth with Physical Disabilities On Your Own Without a Net: The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations Editors: D. Wayne Osgood, E. Michael Foster, Constance Flanagan, & Gretchen R. Ruth University of Chicago Press, 2005 Selected Vulnerable Populations

7 More than Vulnerability Potential for positive development –Despite risk, many will succeed The theme of resilience –Attend to strengths as well as deficits –Protective factors as well as risk –Youth take active role in own success The theme of social inclusion –Society enriched by their participation –Not just assistance, but reciprocity –Entitled to rights and pursuit of own interests

8 Shared Themes Across Vulnerable Populations Poor early adult outcomes Some groups (males; the poor; racial/ethnic minorities) overrepresented in all populations Each population is highly diverse Considerable overlap among populations Factors that promote successful transition to adulthood

9 Early Adult Outcomes of Vulnerable Youth Less Successful in Entering Adult Roles –Family roles: such as marriage, parenthood –Education and training –Employment Difficulties Managing Adult Life –Finding affordable housing –Maintaining health –Avoiding high risk activities Youth with Multiple Risks Least Successful



12 Groups Overrepresented in All 7 Vulnerable Populations Youth of Color The Poor: Individual and Community Males Likely reasons Differences in exposure to causes Differences in behavior Differences in reactions by authority figures Differences in available systems of care

13 Each Vulnerable Population is Highly Diverse Not all are minority, poor, and male Diversity of problems –Type of problem –Severity of problem Prior involvement in service systems –Depth, duration Produces –Differences in needs –Differences in resources

14 Overlap Among Vulnerable Populations Sizable portions of each system are in others as well –For instance, foster care and criminal justice; physical disabilities and special education; juvenile justice and mental health; etc. Distinctions among populations often arbitrary –Partly co-morbidity –Partly multiple systems addressing same issue

15 Factors that Promote Successful Transition to Adulthood Success at School Support from Family Healthy Relationships with Friends Certain Personality Traits –Such as persistence and confidence Failure is Not Inevitable!

16 Subgroups Provide More Clarity for Policy and Practice Keller, Cusick, & Courtney (2007) used Latent Class Analysis (LCA) to identify subpopulations at age 17-18 (n = 732) defined by distinctive profiles on indicators reflecting multiple domains of life experience Analysis resulted in four distinctive groups: Distressed and Disconnected 43%; Competent and Connected 38%; Struggling but Staying 14%; Hindered but Homebound 5% Group membership at 17-18 is strongly associated with several distinct transition outcomes at age 21: education; employment; parenthood; incarceration More recent study used key transition indicators to classify youth at age 23-24 (n = 584) using LCA: living arrangement; educational attainment; employment; resident and non-resident children; conviction since 18

17 Distribution of Former Foster Youth by Latent Class at Age 23-24 (Courtney, Hook, & Lee, 2012)

18 Group 1: Accelerated Adults (36%) Most are female (63%) Most likely to live on their own in fairly stable situation Almost all (98%) have a HS degree or more; 52% have some college Most likely to be currently employed Nearly half (46%) has resident children Relatively low rate of conviction (14%) Group does not stand out on other indicators of functioning (e.g., social support; health; MH and AODA problems; economic hardships) Summary: This group is most likely to have made key transitions relatively early in adulthood

19 Group 2: Struggling Parents (25%) Most are female (74%) Nearly all (91%) have resident children and relatively few (8%) have a non-resident child About equal numbers have their own place (46%) or live with relatives/friends (44%) Most likely not to have a HS degree (44%) and only 3% have any college Only one-quarter currently employed Lower than average rate of conviction (14%) Also…least likely group to be currently in school, most likely to be married or cohabiting, second lowest reported social support, and most likely to experience economic hardship Summary: This group’s experience is dominated by their parenting, under difficult circumstances

20 Group 3: Emerging Adults (21%) Slightly over half are male (55%) All are living with friends, relatives, or in other settings that are not their own Vast majority (91%) has finished high school and they have the second highest rate of having at least some college (46%) They have the second highest rate of current employment (63%) They are least likely to have children (27%) and over two-thirds of those with children have non-resident children Lowest rate of conviction (6%) Also, they are least likely to have ever been married, to have ever dropped out of high school, and to have ever been homeless Summary: This group most resembles Arnett’s (2000) “emerging adults” in that they are delaying some transition markers (e.g., living on their own; finishing school; having children) while generally avoiding hardship

21 Group 4: Troubled and Troubling (18%) Vast majority is male (83%) Are most likely to be incarcerated, otherwise institutionalized, homeless, and/or to have experienced high residential mobility (72%) Two-fifths have not finished high school or GED and only 11% have any college Least likely to be currently employed (10%) 48% have non-resident children; none have resident children 82% report a criminal conviction since age 18 Also, least likely to have felt prepared to be on their own at exit from care, most likely to report mental health and/or substance use problems, lowest reported levels of social support, highest rate of victimization, four-times higher rate of non-violent crime and doubled rate of violent crime compared to other groups Summary: This group experiences a wide range of psychosocial problems and poses challenges to the community

22 Homelessness Among Former Foster Youth Analyzed prevalence and predictors of homelessness among Midwest Study participants (Dworsky, Napolitano, & Courtney, 2013) “Ever been homeless for at least one night” defined “homeless” as “sleeping in a place where people weren’t meant to sleep, sleeping in a homeless shelter or not having a regular residence in which to sleep” Between 31% and 46% of Midwest Study participants had been homeless at least once by age 26 years Risk factors: Running away while in foster care; greater placement instability; being male; having a history of physical abuse; engaging in more delinquent behaviors; and having symptoms of a mental health disorder Extended care in Illinois was associated with delayed homelessness

23 Implications for Policy Distinct subgroups at the age of majority and during early adulthood suggest the need for targeted, developmentally appropriate policy and practice –Subgroup status at 17-18 does not determine later status, but is predictive; Distressed and Disconnected youth were nearly four times more likely than the Competent and Connected youth to be in the Troubled and Troubling group at 23-24 –A large group mainly needs support making the transition to higher education and succeeding there –About one-fifth needs significant intervention, perhaps for many years, with a range of psychosocial problems –Parents as a distinct group arguably need distinct kinds of support Engaging each of these groups requires somewhat distinct strategies

24 Implications for Policy A wide variety of public systems should be accountable for engaging young people (Courtney, 2009) –Courts –Educational institutions –Employment services; welfare-to-work –Housing services –Health, mental, and behavioral health systems –Justice systems –Communities Youths’ distinct needs call for differential involvement of these institutions to ensure youth engagement Youth themselves have invaluable insight and have made major contributions to policy and program development!

25 For more info: evaluation-adult-functioning-former-foster-youth

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