Dr. Toni Naccarato Addresses Foster Youth with Nationwide Research
Results: Voice, Empowerment, Civic Engagement
On January 6, 2014, Assistant Professor Dr. Toni Naccarato, University at Albany, with Lisa Korwin and Leslie Brown, Korwin Consulting, presented their respective findings from a Foster Youth in Action (FYA) multi-state evaluation of positive youth development. The audience was comprised of key child welfare leaders and funders. Hosted by the Stuart Foundation, the meeting included representatives from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, the W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation, the Zellerbach Family Foundation, Pacific Foundation Services and Morris Stulsaft Foundations, the California Department of Social Services, and Fostering Media Connections.
Dr. Naccarato is the principal investigator on the project with co-investigator Janet Knipe, Executive Director and Founder of Foster Youth in Action (FYA). Most importantly to be congratulated on their efforts and expertise are the youth who advised and participated in the research endeavor. The youth were instrumental advisors on the research process that included problem formulation, development of the research questions and survey tool, as well as collecting the data and disseminating the findings at annual national conferences including the Society for Social Work and Research (2014) and the National Pathways to Adulthood convenings (2012, 2013). This level of participation and guidance from the youth is unique and unprecedented in studies addressing youth involved in out-of-home-care.
The study collected data from the FYAs and in California, California Youth Connection’s leadership and advocacy training involving youth in six states: California, Oregon, Washington, Nebraska, Indiana, and Massachusetts. Participants and training facilitators in the intervention are current and former foster youth. The study evaluates the personal impact of participation in the intervention by individual youth. The hypothesis guiding the study is that the intervention would increase the youth’s outcome scores on the following scales: identity affiliation, identity search, civic activism, self-efficacy, civic engagement, community supports, and supports and opportunities. Data were collected on 285 youth and Wave 1 findings show statistical significance on all measures. Thus, this is the first step in quantitatively highlighting that this intervention has some impact on youth from the increase in pre- to post-test scores.
The study’s initial findings support current literature, which suggests there are three rationales for giving young people a greater voice across a variety of settings and policy areas: to ensure social justice, to support civic engagement, and to promote positive youth development. Wave 2 data collection is now underway and funding has been extended until 2015.