“The Survey helps us figure out what areas we can focus on to help youth have more positive experiences.”
— RENEE GARNETT
M.Ed. Virginia Department of Social Services Independent Living Program Specialist
What is the NYTD Survey?
States are now required to track and report on the Independent Living services they provide to youth as they age out of the foster care system. The National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) project was established by the Federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to ensure that all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico use the same methodology to collect data and report outcomes.
Participation in the NYTD data collection is voluntary for the youth. They are not mandated to participate in either the baseline groups or in follow-up surveys. It is up to workers to keep in touch with youth and ensure that the survey is administered.
What information will be collected?
States will survey youth regarding six outcomes:
- financial self-sufficiency
- experience with homelessness
- educational attainment
- positive connections with adults
- high-risk behavior
- access to health insurance.
How will survey results be used?
The data will help establish how independent living funds can be used more effectively to help youth in foster care. The federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) will use the information to create better programs and policies.
When do we administer the survey?
The NYTD survey is administered three times in the life of a youth in foster care:
- on or within 45 days after his or her 17th birthday
- on or around age 19
- on the youth’s 21st birthday
Surveys of 19- and 21-year-olds must be done regardless of their foster care status or whether they are still receiving Independent Living services from the State.
How many youth do we have to reach?
The goals for each cohort are:
- At age 17, 100% take the survey.
- At age 19, 80% of those still in care or receiving services and 60% of those not receiving services are re-surveyed.
- At age 21, at least 80% of those surveyed at 19 must be re-surveyed if they are still receiving services and 60% of those not receiving services must be re-surveyed.
States face penalties for not reaching these quotas.
How often do we start a new cohort?
All states will collect and report outcome information on a new baseline cohort every three years. The first cohort of 17-year-olds was surveyed in October, 2010. They were re-surveyed in 2012 at age 19. Their last survey, at age 21, took place in 2014. The second cohort of 17-year-olds was surveyed for the first time in October, 2014. These youth will be re-surveyed in 2016 and again in 2018.
How do we administer the survey?
The survey may be done in person or over the phone. In Virginia, about 700 to 800 17-year-olds are eligible to take the survey. Workers are asked to contact these young people, help them take the survey or document if a youth was not able to take the survey and why.
Questions asked on the survey
- Current level of education.
- Employment – full time or part time.
- What kind of health insurance or financial support youth receive, if any.
- If youth have caring adults and other caregivers in their lives.
- Some basic information about plans for the future.
“After moving out of care, youth averaged 2.3 moves per year.”
— Miguel Vieyra, the Children’s Bureau
Once youth leave foster care, they move around a lot. The best way to ensure contact is to build a relationship before they leave the system. As they transition out of care, put in place ways to locate them so you can give them the survey as they move on with their lives. While they are still receiving services, talk to them about how valuable their opinion is, how the survey can help them stay connected with their worker and keep up to date on benefits they can receive.
Often, youth who most need care are difficult to reach for the NYTD survey. Make the effort to find them because they are the ones who can provide the most valuable information. It is crucial that all voices are heard. The more feedback we get, the more the data will accurately reflect the services given and the services needed.
Potential Tracing Opportunities
Many activities that youth might engage in can help you locate them.
- Credit card or employment
- Receipt of public assistance
- DMV licenses or identification card
- Criminal justice system
- Enrollment in education
- Frequent contact with close relatives
Tips for maintaining contact
- Publicize the survey on social media, especially Facebook.
- Use email to keep in touch.
- Consider offering an incentive for those youth who respond to the survey.
- Send youth a reminder postcard or email (e.g., birthday cards, holiday cards).
- Create and send a newsletter that provides independent living tips for youth and also reminds them about NYTD follow-up surveys.
- Ask youth how they would prefer to take the NYTD survey. If a youth prefers an in-person interview, ask where they would like to meet (a favorite coffee shop or restaurant would be good incentive for them to meet).
- During the exit interview when they leave foster care, make sure youth understand how important their opinion is in helping others in care throughout America. Emphasize that they will be part of reaching the goal of 80% participation.
- Reach out to youth by phone, text messages, email and social media.
Youth opinions matter
The only people who truly know what it’s like to be in foster care are the youth who have been there. The NYTD survey is the youth’s opportunity to say whether what’s being done is working or not working. By creating a strong connection while they are still in care and emphasizing the importance of their voice being heard, we increase the chances that they will continue to participate in the surveys after they age out.