Youth At-Risk of Homelessness: Design for an Impact Study of "Pathways to Success"

Youth At-Risk of Homelessness: Design for an Impact Study of "Pathways to Success"

A Coach-Like Case Management Program for Youth and Young Adults in Foster Care
Published: Aug 30, 2021
Publisher: Mathematica
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Associated Project

Building Program Capacity to Support Youth at Risk of Homelessness (YARH): Phases I-III

Time frame: Phase I: 2013-2015 Phase II: 2015-2019 Phase III: 2019-2022

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

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Key Findings

The impact study design of Pathways has the following key design features:

  • Well-matched quasi-experimental design: Twenty-one counties will implement Pathways and sixteen counties will serve as a comparison group. The counties are well matched in terms of demographics, poverty levels, urbanicity, youth homelessness, and Chafee service receipt.
  • Strong effective contrast: The Pathways program will be compared against business-as-usual service provision provided by a Chafee worker. Standard service provision is not coach like nor is it youth driven. Referrals through Pathways will be needs driven rather than standardized, and Pathways youth will have far more frequent interactions with their Navigator than will youth in comparison counties.
  • Large study sample: Approximately 750 youth are expected to enroll into Chafee services in study counties during the impact study and will be invited to participate.
  • Comprehensive measurement of outcome domains and at multiple periods: Survey data collection will occur with youth at 6 months post enrollment (about halfway into typical Pathways duration), 12 months after entry (immediately after completing Pathways), and 24 months after entry (12 months after the end of Pathways). The survey will cover 10 outcome domains of interest. Administrative data from the Linked Information Network of Colorado will provide additional outcomes on child welfare, public assistance, and employment, among others.

Bayesian interpretation of impact findings to complement frequentist presentation: The study will supplement the traditional inferential test results from the impact study with a Bayesian presentation of the findings to offer a more nuanced interpretation.

This study will be the first rigorous impact evaluation of Colorado’s Pathways comprehensive service model. Case managers (known as Navigators) use coaching strategies to develop a working alliance with the youth or young adult by listening to them, asking powerful questions, approaching them with curiosity instead of judgment, encouraging them, helping them set achievable goals, and respectfully holding them accountable. The impact study will examine outcomes at three timepoints — 6-, 12-, and 24-months after enrollment — to see the short and long term effects of Pathways. The impact study will collect outcomes in five areas: (1) housing, (2) education, (3) employment, (4) permanent connections, and (5) health and well-being.

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