Upbring, Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing
Release First-of-its-Kind Study on Youth in Foster Care
The study suggests that authentic relationships form the foundation for success for youth in foster care.
AUSTIN, TX – March 7, 2018 – Upbring, a thought leader among child welfare nonprofits, and the Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing today released the pilot report from the Texas Youth Permanency Study (TYPS). The study asks whether the child welfare system’s focus on legal permanency (adoption, reunification, kinship care) for children in foster care is sufficient— and offers an alternative model to give youth everything they need to succeed in adulthood.
“Relationships are the key to building resilience. Sadly, our child welfare system is focused on legal outcomes – returning children to their parents, terminating parental rights, getting a child adopted,” principal investigator Dr. Monica Faulkner, Ph.D., LMSW said. “We don’t focus on the ‘normal’ relationships that youth need with friends, siblings and supportive adults. As we continue this research, we hope to find more information to understand how those relationships function regardless of the child’s legal outcomes.”
The TYPS pilot report is the first phase in a multi-year study. Over the next five years, the TYPS research team will follow a cohort of adolescent youth as they exit the foster care system due to family reunification, adoption or aging out. The study will assess the extent to which these trajectories impact the youths’ abilities to build authentic relationships and achieve positive outcomes in key areas.
Researchers have long known that youth who age out of foster care are at high risk for negative outcomes such as homelessness, unemployment and early or unplanned pregnancy. Until now, however, there was no data comparing youth who age out of care to youth who are adopted or reunified with family.
The TYPS research team interviewed 30 young adults who had been in foster care, seeking answers to two primary questions:
- How do foster care experiences shape outcomes in emerging adulthood?
- To what extent do older youth who are adopted from foster care, returned to their family of origin, or remain in permanent managing conservatorship maintain stable and nurturing connections in emerging adulthood?
Five study participants reported that they were reunified with their birth families, but they returned to foster care because of ongoing abuse or neglect. Another five participants experienced disrupted adoptions for varying reasons, including abuse and the adoptive parents choosing to end their relationship with the child. The majority of participants eventually aged out of care.
A new model
The TYPS pilot report suggests a new model for improving long-term outcomes for youth in foster care, regardless of whether they are adopted, reunified or age out of care. The model starts with youth establishing authentic relationships with people who genuinely care about them, including caseworkers, mental health professionals and foster parents, as well as more informal relationships.
“That foster mom, she has been my angel,” said one study participant. “She’s godmother to my two children. She treated me with decency and respect. She wanted to get to know me.”
Dr. Faulkner’s team found that youth who have the opportunity to forge authentic relationships feel like normal children. Authentic relationships and feeling normal, in turn, facilitate a successful transition into adulthood.
Treating the whole child
Because children enter the child welfare system at different life stages and due to different circumstances, each has unique needs. Still, Upbring’s research identifies five key markers of every child’s well-being: safety, health, education, vocation and life skills. Every Upbring program is designed to make measurable progress toward the five markers.
“We call this our continuum of care, and it is a framework for treating the whole child, beyond his or her immediate needs,” Upbring Senior Vice President of Strategy and Community Engagement Murray Chanow said. “The Texas Youth Permanency Study will provide insight that helps us deliver the support each child needs to thrive after they leave our care and, ultimately, break the cycle of abuse they were born into.”
About Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing
The Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing (TXICFW) is located within the Steve Hick’s School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. The institute uses research and training expertise to engage in a joint learning process with practitioners and agencies to build the foundational knowledge that best serves children and families. TXICFW researchers have direct practice experience working with families in crisis. They utilize real-world experience to focus on improving outcomes for children and families in many areas of child welfare, including foster care and adoption, Latino immigrant families, child maltreatment prevention and adolescent sexual health. To learn more, please visit txicfw.socialwork.utexas.edu
Upbring is a leading Texas-based, faith-inspired nonprofit organization working to break the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and communities. Upbring partners with federal, state and local government agencies, community groups, small businesses, large corporations and dedicated individuals to deliver services that produce measurable progress toward five key markers of every child’s well-being: safety, life skills, education, health and vocation. Upbring benefits nearly 30,000 families each year with its life-changing programs—including foster care, adoption, education, children’s centers and community services. While Upbring has evolved over more than 135 years of service, our organization remains firmly focused on delivering innovative programs and services that address the root causes of child abuse and neglect. For more information, please visit upbring.org.
Angela Nazworth, Vice President, Strategic Communications, Upbring
512-706-7571 | [email protected]