TYPS Pilot Study Findings: March 2018

Cover Photo for TYPS 2018 Pilot StudyThe Texas Youth Permanency Study (TYPS) seeks to understand what helps promote positive outcomes for youth in foster care as they enter adulthood. In the report from our pilot study, we interviewed 30 youth who had been in foster care to examine their experiences with permanency.

If parental rights are terminated, the child welfare system must find permanency for that child. Permanency in the child welfare field is often spoken of in terms of a “forever family.” The assumption is that legal permanence will provide all the components that a child needs to have lifelong permanent connections. However, emerging research and anecdotal evidence suggest many youth enter adulthood with severed ties. This happens regardless of whether youth age out of foster care, were adopted from foster care, or were placed with relatives.

The TYPS team seeks to better understand the realities of former foster youth entering young adulthood.  The team works towards this goal by examining the outcomes of youth who age out of foster care, are adopted, are reunified, or are placed with relatives. In doing so, the team seeks new ways of understanding permanency that will create foundations for youth to thrive in adulthood regardless of how they leave foster care. The pilot study marks a first step in understanding the complexities of permanency.

Most pilot study participants (n=24) reported aging out of foster care at 18 years old without a permanent legal guardian. Of these, five participants reported failed reunifications with their birth family that had allowed them to exit foster care temporarily. Another five participants experienced disrupted adoptions, resulting in three of these participants returning to foster care. Two participants reported adoption discontinuity after age 18. With both participants, the state assumed adoption would provide a forever family, but the youth entered adulthood with no support.

Findings from our report include:
  1. Authentic relationships matter most;
  2. Every child needs to feel normal; and
  3. Authentic relationships and feeling normal foster wellbeing in young adulthood.

We used these three findings to create a conceptual model presenting a new way of thinking about permanency. Normalcy, or the feeling of being “like everyone else,” makes up the core of our model. This feeling of being normal allows a youth to create relationships that transcend legal permanency in adulthood. Normalcy plays a key role in achieving wellbeing.

The TYPS team plans to test this conceptual model by following a cohort of foster youth into young adulthood. The team will follow a cohort of youth ages 14 and older to see what happens with their permanency outcomes over five years. Thus, TYPS will continue building evidence to inform policies and practices that improve outcomes for all foster youth, regardless of their permanency outcomes.

Read the full report:

TYPS Pilot Study Report