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IES Grant

Title: My Life: Evaluation of Self-Determination Enhancement for Transitioning Students in Special Education and Foster Care
Center: NCSER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Geenen, Sarah Awardee: Portland State University
Program: Transition to Postsecondary Education, Career, and/or Independent Living      [Program Details]
Award Period: 06/01/2010 – 05/31/2014 Award Amount: $2,932,504
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324A100166

Purpose: Enhanced self-determination has been shown to be associated with transition success for students with disabilities. Self-determination may be even more important for students with disabilities in foster care settings who are transitioning into adulthood. Although interventions have been developed to address self-determination among students with disabilities, there is a lack of empirical evidence to conclude that such interventions directly lead to better transition outcomes such as employment and educational achievement.

The purpose of this project is to determine the efficacy of the My Life intervention for improving self-determination, academic achievement, quality of life, employment, and independent living outcomes. The program has been developed to target self-determination among students with disabilities and has shown promise in two randomized studies for improving transition outcomes. Of particular interest in this study is how the My Life program functions for foster students, who often face a difficult transition as they age out of foster care and into adulthood.

Project Activities: The researchers will conduct an experimental study to determine the efficacy of the My Life intervention for students who receive special education services and are in foster care. Researchers will collect data for three consecutive cohorts of foster youth randomly assigned to the My Life and control conditions.

Products: The expected products from this study include evidence of the efficacy of the My Life intervention, published reports, and presentations.

Setting: The research will take place in a large school district in Oregon.

Population: The sample will be comprised of 210 youth aged 16.5 years or older who receive special education services and are in foster care. During each of the first three years of the project, 70 such youth will be randomly assigned to either the intervention group or a control group.

Intervention: The My Life model includes: (1) instruction and coaching for youth around the identification and achievement of academic goals; (2) in-service training for professionals, delivered by youth, foster parents and project staff, that is focused on supporting the unique needs of foster youth with disabilities; (3) workshops and ongoing technical assistance for foster parents to support improved education and self-determination of foster youth; and (4) formation of an Interagency Partnership Council that will assist youth to address barriers to their educational success, clarify agency roles and increase collaboration between systems.

Research Design and Methods: A randomized control trial design is being used, with three cohorts of students randomly assigned to experimental or control conditions on an individual basis.

Control Condition: The comparison group will receive typical educational services (business-as-usual), including general and special education classes, related services, interaction with special education case managers, individualized educational planning and extracurricular activities.

Key Measures: Key measures will include a Fidelity of Implementation Checklist, participant demographics and student performance data collected from school records, Arc's Self-Determination Scale, AIR Self-Determination Scale, Self-Efficacy Questionnaire for Children, Teacher Report Form, Woodcock-Johnson III-R, School Attitude Measure, Transition Planning Assessment, Quality of Life Questionnaire, Adolescent Risk Inventory, Child Behavior Checklist, Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment, and the Career Decision Self-Efficacy Scale.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will compare baseline data in both conditions to evaluate comparability of groups. The researchers will conduct multiple regression and two level hierarchical linear modeling focusing on achievement, quality of life, employment, and independent living outcomes to assess the efficacy of My Life. In addition, mediation analyses will be conducted to determine if self-determination mediates intervention–outcomes relationships. Moderator analyses will examine gender and ethnicity.

Products and Publications

Powers, L. E., Geenen, S., Powers, J., Pommier-Satya, S., Turner, A., Dalton, L. D., Drummond, D., Swank, P., … (2012). My life: Effects of a longitudinal, randomized study of self-determination enhancement on the transition outcomes of youth in foster care and special education. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 2179–2187.

Blakeslee, J., Powers, J., Geenen, S., Nelson, M., Quest, A.D., Powers, L.E., & Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care (2013). Reaching everyone: Promoting the inclusion and retention of youth with disabilities in evaluating foster care outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review, 35 1801–1808.

Schmidt, J., Cunningham, M., Dalton, L., Geenen, S., Orozco, C., & Powers, L.E., & Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care (2013). Assessing Restrictiveness: A closer look at the foster care placements and perceptions of youth with and without disabilities aging out of care. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 7, 586–609.

Schmidt, J., Dubey, S., Dalton, L., Nelson, M., Lee, J., Kennedy, M. O., … & The Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth In Foster Care. (2015). Who am I? Who do you think I am? Stability of racial/ethnic self-identification among youth in foster care and concordance with agency categorization. Children and Youth Services Review, 56, 61–67.