New Research Suggests Poor Outcomes for Crossover Youth

A new study, “Young Adult Outcomes of Youth Exiting Dependent or Delinquent Care in Los Angeles County” found that crossover youth experience fairly poor outcomes after exiting care and face severe challenges in education, employment, health, mental health and earnings potential. The report, funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, defined crossover youth as youth who are involved in both foster care and juvenile justice systems. The study used records from thousands of youths who exited foster care from an out-of-home placement in 2002 and 2004, and juvenile records for any youths who exited probation from 2000 to 2006. There were a total of 596 youths who exited foster care in one of those years and also exited probation. On most measures of adult outcomes, they fared significantly worse than the youths who came into contact with one system.

While there is longstanding recognition that crossover youth fare worse than youth who only come into contact with one agency, the California study shows that in many cases, the crossover youths experience negative outcomes at twice the rate. In fact, crossover youths accounted for an average of $35,171 in public service utilization costs, such as being jailed or receiving welfare benefits, which is nearly three times the $12,532 average for other foster youth. Furthermore, eighty-two percent received some state benefits, including welfare, food stamps or Medicaid, compared with 68 percent of other youth exiting from foster care.

The research suggests that two major factors for the disparity were treatment for mental health disorders and further criminal activity. The study suggests that connecting more crossover youths to employment opportunities is another potential avenue for improvement. The study recommends targeting this population for ongoing intervention and outreach and as a result, the Hilton Foundation plans to use the findings of this study to craft a pilot program for working with crossover youth. The results of the study are also expected to inform implementation of the California Fostering Connections to Success Act (AB12) that extends foster care from 18 years to 21 years starting January 1, 2012. A follow-up study is underway to determine whether other factors can help predict which crossover youths will struggle and require high levels of public assistance.

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