Claudia Coulton Speaks about Early Adult Outcomes for Youth in the Foster Care and Juvenile Justice Systems

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On November 5, 2015, the Schubert Center hosted Claudia Coulton of the Center for Urban Poverty and Community Development for “Exploring the Impact of Foster Care and Juvenile Justice Involvement on Future Youth Outcomes.” Colton spoke about her research on the impact of adolescent involvement in the juvenile justice and foster care systems on transitions into adulthood. Previous research has found that system involvement is associated with higher drop out rates, high unemployment rates, more episodes of homelessness and greater involvement with the criminal justice system, with a disproportionate impact on youth of color.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University followed 10,086 students, who were enrolled for the first time in ninth grade in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years through age twenty-one. They integrated data from various systems to gather information about school attendance, foster care histories, delinquency filings, homelessness services use, and county jail incarceration. 20.8% of the students followed were involved in the juvenile justice system, 1.7% in the foster care system, and 1.7% in both systems. Findings from this study can be found in the Schubert Center Policy Brief, (link)“Transitions to Adulthood for Foster Care and Justice System-Involved Youth.”

Coulton noted that community organizations can help address these issues by focusing on localized areas of higher levels of system involvement. She also described cost savings that come from  providing resources to  prevent system involvement and support system involved youth, rather than paying for homelessness and other services in early adulthood and beyond.


Coulton was joined by respondents Cynthia Weiskittel of the Cuyahoga County Division of Child and Family Services, Kate Lodge of the YWCA of Cleveland, and Judge Denise Rini of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court.

Cynthia Weiskittel highlighted the challenges that public child protective services face in successfully transitioning children in their care into adulthood, particularly for those who age out of the foster care system without being placed in a permanent home. Right now, around 500 children over the age of fifteen are in foster care. She also noted successes, such as the 71% of foster children eligible to graduate high school in the last year who successfully graduated. DCFS is also making efforts to remedy systemic problems that bring children into care, such as assisting parents who are homeless to find permanent housing.

Kate Lodge discussed her work at A Place 4 Me, an initiative from the YWCA of Cleveland aimed at addressing youth homelessness. The YWCA and partners are currently working towards a goal of zero youth homelessness. Lodge described the unique challenges for youth entering adulthood from the foster care system, such as a lack of a family safety net. One program offered by A Place 4 Me provides an emergency “second chance” fund for these youth. She also provided information about the Kids Count initiative to accurately count homeless youth in Cleveland.

Judge Denise Rini described her work advocating for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. She stressed the importance of assisting children by utilizing tools such as the youth transitional form, which helps adolescents involved in the juvenile justice make plans for the future. Judge Rini described the multi-generational cycle of poverty and mental illness that is intimately tied to system involvement and noted opportunities for advocates to get involved, such as the CASA program beginning in January 2016.

The Schubert Center would like to thank co-sponsors Cuyahoga County Department of Child and Family Services, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, the Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies, Public Children Services Association of Ohio, and the YWCA of Cleveland.

Download “Transitions to Adulthood for Foster Care and Justice System-Involved Youth”.

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Download an infographic on the findings of Kids Count on youth homelessness in Cuyahoga County.

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