The population of young people in the foster care and justice systems is disproportionately composed of African American and economically disadvantaged youth. Although programs exist to promote the academic and economic outcomes for these youth while they are actively involved in the system, few programs are designed to address their needs as they exit the systems and work toward completing school and securing gainful employment upon returning to the community. Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) is adapting and systematically improving two existing programs that address the educational and work-related needs of youth transitioning from systems to community: “Jobs for America’s Graduates” supports youth who lack a high school diploma with earning high school equivalency and building professional skills, and “Back on Track” provides academic skills and training to youth who have a secondary credential so that they are better able to persist in postsecondary education and career pathways. The research team will use a mixed-methods approach to examine what it costs to implement the programs in both rural and urban areas, as well as how youth and staff members experience the implementation of each program and its adaptations. Phone interviews with youth will inquire about participation in program activities, experiences with LEAP staff and community partners, skill developments, schooling, and employment. Interviews with staff will identify supports that aid implementation, how adaptations are affecting the delivery of core services, and perceptions of youth experiences with the program. Site visits, document reviews, and direct observations of services will provide insights about fidelity to core model components and adaptations.
What are the costs of implementing programs that improve the educational and employment outcomes of low-income youth transitioning out of foster care or justice systems?