UCR psychologist awarded $350k to study CA’s foster care system

Courtesy of UCR Today

UC Riverside Psychologist Tuppett Yates has received a $350,000 grant from the William T. Grant Foundation to study the behavior of emancipated youth from foster care. As part of a five-year study, Yates will examine the impact of recent legislation (Assembly Bill 12) which increased the eligible foster care age from 18 to 21, along with the communication styles of social workers.

“Youth who age out or emancipate from foster care at 18 years of age face the challenges of adulthood with few educational, material and socio-emotional resources. Cut from the moorings of state care, these youth are often brought down by the currents of adulthood,” stated Yates in an article by UCR Today.

Founded in 1936, the William T. Grant Foundation supports research that is meant to study and improve the interpersonal skills of individuals aged 8 to 25. Yates’ research is one of six scholar grants chosen for its potential to bring a positive change to the lives of American youth. Her study will be named, “Settings for Success among Emancipating Foster Youth: Youth and Workers in Communication and Collaboration,” and will follow a group of 200 youths who have just aged out of foster care.

During this time, Yates will observe how Assembly Bill 12 has changed any post-emancipation dynamics– namely, whether the youth’s decision-making process will differ from those who were emancipated from foster care at age 18.

Assembly Bill 12 (AB 12), also known as “The California Fostering Connections to Success Act,” will allow youths under the age of 18 the option of remaining in residential placement facilities until they are 21; it will also allow those who have passed the legal age limit to reapply for extended foster care. AB 12 was passed into law on January 1 and is meant to provide more extensive support and services for emancipated youth.

According to a study by the Transitional Age Youth Initiative, less than 10 percent of emancipated youth who graduate from a California high school go on to enroll in college. In terms of housing, 65 percent of teens in foster care will leave the system without having secured a place to live. Yates will analyze the effectiveness of the public policy on the social security system in terms of housing, education and job training for fostered youths who have reached adulthood.

“The kids who choose to stay in care may have had better experiences and relationships with their social workers. The ones who don’t stay may not have had a positive experience,” stated Yates, who will also analyze the factors that may influence whether an eligible teen will want to continue in the foster care system versus opting out.

Yates will collaborate on the study with distinguished UC Riverside Professor of Psychology Robin DiMatteo and Mark Courtney from the University of Chicago. In applying a system of coding tone of voice and nonverbal communication, Yates will be able to analyze how foster care youth converse with their peers and foster care employees, and how their decision-making process is influenced as a result.

“She is an exceptionally talented researcher, and she cares deeply about the well-being of emancipated foster youth. Her findings will contribute greatly to helping young people to realize their potential and to succeed,” stated DiMatteo in an interview with the Highlander.

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