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A cost-benefit analysis of transitional services for emancipating foster youth


  • Packard, Thomas
  • Delgado, Melanie
  • Fellmeth, Robert
  • McCready, Karen


Over 24,000 youth "aged out" of the nation's foster care system in FY 2005. While independent living programs and other services are available to foster youth, and almost all states allow dependency courts to retain jurisdiction of foster youth beyond age 18, outcomes for former foster youth are disturbing. This paper describes a program to address these challenges by providing extended foster care benefits and support to former foster youth from their 18th to 23rd birthdays. A detailed cost-benefit methodology documents expected costs and key benefits of the program. According to this cost-benefit analysis, a program providing funding and guardian support for former foster youth is projected to result in net benefits to the State of California over the 40-year careers of participating former foster youth. The program, if successful for all youth, would increase lifetime earnings and taxes paid due to increased education and would lower use of TANF and prison, resulting in a benefit-cost ratio of 1.5 to 1, using discounted present value dollars. Even at 75% success, the ratio is 1.2 to 1, showing a net benefit to society. This methodology can also be used to assess the costs and benefits of similar programs.

Suggested Citation

  • Packard, Thomas & Delgado, Melanie & Fellmeth, Robert & McCready, Karen, 2008. "A cost-benefit analysis of transitional services for emancipating foster youth," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(11), pages 1267-1278, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:30:y:2008:i:11:p:1267-1278

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pecora, Peter J. & Kessler, Ronald C. & O'Brien, Kirk & White, Catherine Roller & Williams, Jason & Hiripi, Eva & English, Diana & White, James & Herrick, Mary Anne, 2006. "Educational and employment outcomes of adults formerly placed in foster care: Results from the Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(12), pages 1459-1481, December.
    2. Melissa Clark & David Jaeger, 2006. "Natives, the foreign-born and high school equivalents: new evidence on the returns to the GED," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 19(4), pages 769-793, October.
    3. Foster, E. Michael & Holden, E. Wayne, 2002. "Benefit-Cost Analyses of the Child Welfare Demonstration Projects: Understanding the Resource Implications of the IV-E Waivers," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(6-7), pages 431-453.
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    Cited by:

    1. Naccarato, Toni & Brophy, Megan & Courtney, Mark E., 2010. "Employment outcomes of foster youth: The results from the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Foster Youth," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 551-559, April.
    2. Mihic, Marko M. & Todorovic, Marija Lj. & Obradovic, Vladimir Lj., 2014. "Economic analysis of social services for the elderly in Serbia: Two sides of the same coin," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 9-21.

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