KU News: KU-led study explores predictive factors of youths who run from foster care

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KU-led study explores predictive factors of youths who run from foster care
LAWRENCE — What drives young adults to run away from foster care placements? A new study conducted by University of Kansas researchers included interviews with Kansas youths in foster care to determine contributing factors to the decision to run away. The researchers identified five key themes, including the importance of maintaining connections with kin.

KU center secures $2.37M for College Assistance Migrant Program
LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP) has been awarded a five-year, $2.37 million project to serve 175 students across KU and three additional institutions of higher education. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education, the Heartland College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), a college first-year success program, expands upon the two-decade legacy of CEOP supporting the children of migrant agricultural workers. Heartland CAMP’s goal is to help students from migratory agricultural backgrounds start college on a strong path to break the cycle of poverty and interrupted schooling that often accompany this agricultural work.

California couple establishes KU School of Business professorship with $1 million gift
LAWRENCE — Analytics, information and operations management is an emerging area in business, and University of Kansas alumnus Roger Davis recognizes its growing importance. He and his wife, Julie, secured a place for that area of study in the KU School of Business by giving a $1 million gift to establish the Davis Analytics, Information and Operations Management Area Director Professorship, honoring retired dean Tom Sarowski.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings
KU-led study explores predictive factors of youths who run from foster care
LAWRENCE — What drives young adults to run away from foster care placements? In a new study conducted by University of Kansas researchers, youths reported running away to have a say in their own lives, to connect with family and to escape untenable placement environments. And sometimes, they ran simply out of anger or impulse. Most striking among these messages from the study, KU researchers said, was the need for family connection, belonging and normalcy.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General issued a report in 2022 that more than 7% of Kansas foster children went missing during a 30-month period, placing it as one of the highest such rates in the nation. TFI Family Services Inc., one of the state’s contracted case management providers for youth in foster care, partnered with School of Social Welfare researchers at KU to better support children in their care. The goal was to identify and mitigate the factors that contribute to youth decisions to run away from care and better protect young peoples’ safety and well-being.
Through a mixed-methods study that included interviews with 20 young adults ages 12-17 in Kansas foster care who both had and had not fled their foster placements, the research team identified five key findings.
“These findings from youth highlighted the significance of family and kin connections while in foster care and the critical importance of maintaining those connections, even if they are not placed with their family,” said Kaela Byers, research faculty at KU’s School of Social Welfare and principal investigator. “Youth should have a voice in determining what family is, and the system should work to ensure that stays intact safely.”
The study revealed five themes:
1. Historical family bonds or attachments can serve as an important protective function related to youth placement stability.
2. Fear and/or lack of control of their own circumstances perpetuated by the system and/or placement constraints increased risk of runaway decisions.
3. Supportive placements, extending beyond basic needs, and promoting belonging and a sense of normalcy mitigated risk factors related to runaway decisions.
4. Family bonds and their role in meeting youth needs influenced decisions to run away or return.
5. System shortcomings (such as worker turnover, bias, resource scarcity) fail to protect against risk of decisions to run away.
The study also identified groups of youth with varying levels of risk and protection related to running from care. Those most at risk had experienced a high number of placements, more hospitalizations and were often removed from their parents’ homes due to neglect. Young adults with higher levels of runaway risk also had more trauma experiences than their peers, more often had behavioral issues and were more likely to be male. Those at lower risk were more likely to have access to family, siblings and kin and felt they had a voice in the decisions made about their care.
“One of our main questions was, ‘Are there different groups in this population that experience different outcomes, and can those differences tell us something about how to better support youth in the future?’” said graduate research assistant Jessica Wesley. “We found there are. Some of the things that were most protective were placements with siblings.”
Youths who go missing are at risk for exploitation, trafficking, negative health outcomes, arrest and many other potential problems.
“For the same reasons we would not want our own children to run away and to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, we want to prevent this from happening,” said Jared Barton, research faculty in KU’s social welfare school and co-principal investigator.
“It is also important to understand that runaway events are likely a red flag for other underlying issues,” said Becci Akin, associate professor of social welfare and co-principal investigator. “In addition to immediate safety and stability issues, our prior research has shown that youth who run away are also less likely to exit foster care to a permanent home. These young people may be vulnerable to other poor outcomes and deserve more attention and resources to support them in staying connected to family and kin.”
In 2021, the Kansas Department for Children and Families announced its intentions to become a “Kin-First State,” which strives to keep youths placed with their families and kin whenever possible, and if a child is placed in foster care, to keep people they are close to accessible to them. However, that is often not the reality as they are unable to see close relatives because of geographical distance, legal issues, workforce limitations and a host of other reasons. For those reasons, youths said they ran from foster care.
The study included recommendations for practice and policy for action by the agency, and for the larger child welfare system, to address issues that participants shared. Among the recommendations:
1. Improving family visitation and maintaining youth connections with self-identified family and nonrelative kin
2. Supporting service approaches for youths that honor and amplify their voices, choices and family connections
3. Improving the quality of placements and individualization of services.
Next, the team will reconvene the young adults who took part in the study to confirm if the results and recommendations accurately represent their experiences.
“One of the key findings from the interviews was the lack of youth voice in placement decisions. As such, we want to honor and lift youth voice in the research to ensure their experiences are accurately reflected and understood to better inform policy and practice changes,” said Whitney Grube, associate researcher in the social welfare school.
The findings also will be translated into action to support youth in foster care.
“TFI is invested in reducing the incidents of missing youth in foster care,” said Rachelle Roosevelt, senior vice president for permanency services. “We are using the recommendations and results from this research to make changes to our practice to build protective factors and address risks factors for our youth.”
For example, TFI began implementing Placement Stability Team Decision Making in January 2022 to hear from both youth and their families in making placement decisions.
“TFI has seen some positive progress in reducing frequency of missing youth and recently had 45 consecutive days in Area 8 where no children were missing from placement for 24 hours or more,” Roosevelt said.
Having a say in their own care, ties to family and the importance of belonging are key takeaways, KU researchers said.
“When those conditions were available to youth, they shared with us the growing sense of self-actualization and well-being that you expect and want for a young person,” Byers said. “It’s not enough to just feed and clothe these youth. They need a home and a family.”
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Contact: Laura Kingston, Center for Educational Opportunity Programs, 785-864-3415, [email protected], @CEOPmedia
KU center secures $2.37M for College Assistance Migrant Program

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP) has been awarded a five-year, $2.37 million project to serve 175 students across KU and three additional institutions of higher education.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education, the Heartland College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), a college first-year success program, expands upon the two-decade legacy of CEOP supporting the children of migrant agricultural workers. Heartland CAMP’s goal is to help students from migratory agricultural backgrounds start college on a strong path to break the cycle of poverty and interrupted schooling that often accompany this agricultural work.
“Even when students from these backgrounds are accepted into college, if they do not have the full range of support services, the likelihood of their success is disproportionately diminished,” said CEOP director Ngondi Kamaṱuka. “A confluence of socioeconomic disadvantages works against these students, but this program provides the type of support system that can make all the difference between staying in school and thriving, and dropping out.”
The CAMP grant administered by CEOP joins more than 50 other CAMPs nationally and will serve eligible students at KU and at Kansas City Kansas Community College, Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska, and Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City, Iowa. The four schools have strong histories of working with first-generation and low-income students, especially through federally funded TRIO Student Support Services programs.
Under the leadership of CAMP director Stacy Mendez, 175 students at the four institutions will receive a first-year scholarship and laptop award as well as intensive, holistic advising, academic supports and community building opportunities.
“We know from research that a successful transition during the first year of college is crucial to students returning for their sophomore year and earning their degree,” Mendez said. “We also know that students from migratory agricultural backgrounds come to college with unique strengths gained from their life experiences, families and communities. One of our goals is to help our first-year students recognize and tap into those strengths to successfully transition to college.”
As a first-year transition program, CAMP connects students to other student support programs and education resources to ensure they have the resources they need to complete a college degree. The impact of support during the first year of college is crucial.
Looking back at starting her journey as a Jayhawk, Tanya Sánchez said, “As a first-generation freshman, having the support of CAMP was my biggest comfort and best resource.”
Sánchez earned a bachelor’s degree in human biology from KU in 2020 and, thanks in part to the support from CAMP, she is continuing her education at UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry.
“I am so grateful to have been a part of Heartland CAMP,” she said. “It helped me become a confident student.”
Learn more about CEOP, part of the Achievement & Assessment Institute at KU.

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Contact: Michelle Strickland, KU Endowment, 785-832-7363, [email protected]; Michelle Keller, KU Endowment, 785-832-7336, [email protected]; @KUEndowment
California couple establishes KU School of Business professorship with $1 million gift
LAWRENCE — Analytics, information and operations management is an emerging area in business, and University of Kansas alumnus Roger Davis recognizes its growing importance. He and his wife, Julie, secured a place for that area of study in the KU School of Business by giving a $1 million gift to establish the Davis Analytics, Information and Operations Management Area Director Professorship, honoring retired dean Tom Sarowski.
The unique gift also includes an initial expendable gift of $120,000 to provide immediate supplemental support for the Davis AIO Area Director Professorship. The Davises, of Montecito, California, will continue to make annual gifts to the supplemental fund assuring that the combined endowed and supplemental funds provide no less than an annual total of $100,000 to support the position.
Roger Davis, who received a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business administration from KU in 1972, attended a meeting of the School of Business Dean’s Advisory Board in fall 2021. At that meeting, Dean Paige Fields projected upcoming needs for the school, including support for highly qualified faculty chairs. The Davises talked it over and agreed that faculty was the area they felt most drawn to support.
“It was never a question of whether we would do something, but what we would do,” Roger Davis said. “Dean Fields — and the whole school — would benefit if we responded to her request. We approached this with urgency and intensity because we wanted to immediately demonstrate our support of the dean’s initiative to significantly increase faculty support.”
The Davises said they believe analytics, information and operations management, known collectively as AIO, is the most important area in the business school. Their decision to support AIO aligns with their 2015 gift to create the Davis Center for Figure Sense at the school, focusing on evidence-based decision making.
Debabrata “Deb” Dey, who up until recently was a professor of information systems at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, has been selected as the inaugural Davis AIO Area Director Professor and said he is looking forward to the opportunities the position presents.
“The rapid and ongoing digital transformation around us makes AIO the area to be in,” Dey said. “AIO holds the key to the digital world, its operational efficiencies and its successes. AIO bridges the gap between technology and business — it provides technology-based solutions to practical problems and fosters innovations through technology.”
Dey expressed his gratitude and excitement to be in this pivotal role.
“As the incoming area director, I want to thank the Davises for recognizing the potential AIO holds in today’s technology-driven business and society,” he said.
Roger Davis recognized Sarowski in the naming of the professorship because the two worked together during Sarowski’s tenure as dean from 1995 to 2000. For three of those years, Davis was chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board.
“While Tom was not an academic, he brought extensive senior-level consulting industry leadership experience,” Roger Davis said. “Tom laid the groundwork for a lot of progress in the School of Business. Being his board chair for three years, I learned so much from him, and I wanted to make sure he was recognized.”
Fields thanked the Davises for their vision and generosity.
“This gift advances the school’s efforts to recruit top-tier faculty, such as Professor Dey, which also helps elevate our academic reputation,” she said. “Bolstering an academic area director position in this forward-focused way ensures the retention of strong faculty leadership within the school.”
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Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, director of news and media relations, [email protected]

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