Primary Sources: New Tool Measures Youth Connections to Adults

Photograph of a pyramid of paper dolls.

“Measuring Youth Connections: A Component of Relational Permanence for Foster Youth” (abstract). Children and Youth Services Review, Vol. 35, No. 3 (March 2013).

What it’s about: Researchers at the University of Minnesota evaluated the validity and reliability of the Youth Connections Scale, a tool designed to measure how strongly youth in out-of-home placements are connected to caring adults. The authors tested the scale on 53 foster youth ages 15 to 20, who completed the instrument with the help of a social worker two different times. The same youth were then evaluated using another tool that also looks at supportive relationships.

Why read it: Youth living away from home often lose their connection to adults who can provide an emotional and financial safety net. Recognizing that such support does not always come from biological family members or legal caregivers, researchers have begun emphasizing “relational permanence,” the idea of a lifelong connection to at least one caring adult. Prior to this study, youth workers lacked a consistent, effective way to gauge whether a young person has that kind of a connection.

Biggest takeaway for youth workers: The pilot study results suggest the Youth Connections Scale is a promising new instrument for measuring youth connectedness, and for guiding youth workers as they help young people build and maintain relationships. Specifically, researchers found strong similarities in participants' scores between the first and second times they took the test and compared to results from another scale that had already been validated. Because the study focused on youth in foster care, further tests are needed to see if the Youth Connections Scale can help other youth living away from their families, such as runaway and homeless young people.

Because the scale is designed as a collaborative process between a youth and his or her case workers, the authors write, it can help social workers build trust. Program administrators may also find the scale helpful, they say, because it gives them a concrete way to address the Administration for Children and Families’ emphasis on emotional and social well-being.

Additional references: Learn more about the Youth Connections Scale in materials created by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare.

(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 these and other publications.)

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