Care and Connections: Bridging Relational Gaps in Foster Youths.
Denby, Ramona. Gomez, Efren. Reeves, Richard V.
Center on Children and Families, Brookings Institution.
Public Policy Report
Published: September 2017
1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
This brief explains more than 20,000 youths age out of foster care each year, the poor outcomes of foster care alumni, and the impact of a relational deficit on these outcomes. It notes foster care children enter the system with a relational deficit and that this lack of relational capacities might prevent some foster youths from developing relationships and strong connections as protective factors. The importance of relationships is discussed, and the need to teach relationship building skills to foster youths is emphasized. Preliminary findings are then shared from four federally funded projects in different parts of the United States that provided services to help foster youths build and use relational skills in order to develop healthy and safe connections with others, and so improve their outcomes, including emotional well-being, permanency, occupational attainment, and educational attainment. The programs included: the DREAMR Project in Clark County, Nevada; Connections Project in San Diego, California; Adult Connections, in Chicago, Illinois; and Work Wonders, in Providence, Rhode Island. Even though preliminary findings from the projects reveal mixed results, some projects found promising outcomes (i.e., increasing levels of connectedness reported by youths, increasing career readiness, and occupational attainment) that could be evaluated using more rigorous research methods. The challenges of both implementing and evaluating relationship-based interventions in child welfare are discussed, as well as implications and recommendations for practitioners and researchers interested in increasing relational capacities for foster youths. 12 references.
foster adolescents; aging out; independent living skills; emotional development; mentor programs; interpersonal relationships; socialization; promising practices