Recipe: Youth at risk of aging out
Among other changes, the Fostering Connections law introduced new requirements for casework with older foster youth. It also established new reporting requirements regarding youth aging out of care. In light of these changes, monitoring the number of children who are at risk of aging out and providing them with the services they need are pressing issues for foster care systems today.
In this Recipe I explain how to use the web tool to determine the number of youth entering care in your jurisdiction who are at risk of aging out within five years.
This Recipe will take you about 10 minutes to complete. In addition to the web tool, it requires a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel.
Question: In recent years, how many children entering care in my jurisdiction were at risk of aging out within five years of entry? Has that figure changed over time?
[Note: This Recipe presumes that children will age out of foster care upon turning 18. The steps can be altered for jurisdictions that extend foster care benefits to children through age 19, 20, or 21.]
- On the All spells page, scroll down to the Spell overview section. Under Spell started at age, enter 13 in the Min box. This tells the system to only return records of children who started their spells at age 13 or older. We select 13 as the minimum spell start age, because that is the youngest age at which a child entering care can be at risk for aging out within 5 years of entry (13 + 5 = 18).
- Scroll down to the Sample selection section and enter 01-01-2005 in the From box and 12-31-2010 in the To box. This narrows the selection further by telling the system to only return records of children who entered care between 2005 and 2010.
- Scroll down to the Define output section. Under List records, select Age at Spell Start and Spell Start Date. Then click Download Data.
- Clicking Download Data will open a comma-separated file (.csv) containing your results in Microsoft Excel. Use the “Date and Time” function or the “Text to Columns” function to extract the year from the Spell Start Date into its own column. Rename your columns to identify the month, day, and year of the spell start date. You should have a file that looks like this:
- Each row in the spreadsheet represents a child who entered foster care between 2005 and 2010 and was 13 or older when he/she entered care. Sort the data by SPELLAGE to double check that you made the correct selections above. All the ages under SPELLAGE should be 13 or greater.
- Now, use the “Pivot Table” function to create a table that shows how many children entered care in each entry year. You should get a table that looks like this:
If you wish, you can use Excel to display these results graphically:
In the county examined above, the number of children entering foster care who are at risk of aging out of care within five years of entry has been declining steadily since 2006.
In this Recipe, you learned how to use the web tool to calculate the number of children entering care each year who are at risk of aging out within 5 years of entry. The results can start to give you an idea of how many such children will enter care in the coming year so that you can begin to think about the types of services they might need to help them achieve permanent exits, and how much those services will cost.
But this analysis only examines the children in an entry cohort who are at risk of aging out. To learn the number of youth in these cohorts who actually do age out, we need another analysis. This is covered in the next Recipe.