Primary Sources: Predicting How Youth Will Fare When They Exit Independent Living Programs

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Photograph of a young person looking at a laptop computer with an adult advisor.

Lighthouse Independent Living Program: Predictors of Client Outcomes at Discharge,” Children and Youth Service Review, April 2011.

What it's about: The authors studied how youth in the Lighthouse Independent Living Program in Cincinnati, Ohio, fare when exiting the program. They looked at how old the youth were between 2001 and 2005 when they entered program, whether they were teen parents, and whether they had mental health problems. Then they examined whether these factors were associated with certain outcomes, such as whether or not youth were employed, had housing, or had finished high school or earned a GED by the end of the program.

Why read it: Youth workers who accurately assess the problems youth face and engage them in creating specialized plans to overcome those problems may be better able to help homeless youth feel safe, have a sense of belonging, recognize their own strengths and transition successfully to independence.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: When youth in the study exited the program at age 19, over half of them had completed high school, and more than a third were employed and living independently. Other findings:

  • Youth with mental illness were only half as likely as those without to have earned a high school diploma or GED and to have obtained stable employment and housing.
  • Parenting youth were less likely to have gotten a diploma or GED than were youth without children. Young parents were also less likely to be employed.
  • Youth with a history of getting in trouble with the law were less likely than other youth to have gotten housing.
  • Older youth and those who remained in the program longer had better outcomes than others.

Overall, the authors of the study say, youth workers should consider providing an intensive life-skills regimen that takes into account each young person's needs, including mental health services. The researchers also suggest offering family planning for parenting youth and having “safer sex” conversations with them to prevent future unintended pregnancies.

Additional reference: For more information about independent living programs visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway section on independent living.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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