The 2023 Business Case for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Date: August 21, 2023
To: Lindsay Salas, CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties
From: Patricia Silverstein, Development Research Partners
RE: The 2023 Business Case for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Investments in human capital are critical for economic growth and development. A wealth of research links higher levels of educational attainment to better economic outcomes including higher earnings, lower unemployment, and increased productivity. More productive workers make businesses more profitable and a region more competitive. Alternatively, leaving the next generation of workers behind, especially those that are at-risk, vulnerable, and disadvantaged, imposes significant costs to governmental entities, businesses, and society through increased poverty, crime, and costs to the legal and public assistance systems.
Colorado recovered all jobs lost during the COVID recession by February 2022, about six months faster than it took the U.S. to restore employment. Colorado added 114,000 jobs in 2022, a 4.1% increase, but job growth is expected to slow to a 2% pace in 2023. Reasons for the slowdown include reduced consumer spending, rising interest rates, uncertainty in the investment markets, and a challenging home sales environment. In addition, a significant constraint to continued employment growth is the historically tight labor market. For example, there were 190,000 job openings and 92,000 unemployed people in Colorado as of June 2023, meaning companies in Colorado had 98,000 more job openings than there were unemployed individuals to fill them.
This tight labor market environment makes it difficult for businesses to find and retain the workers needed. Every worker matters in this environment, making the work of CASA critical. The work of the CASA system addresses a significant need in our Colorado communities, advocating for children and youth from the child welfare system so every child can be safe, have a permanent home, and the opportunity to thrive. In addition, CASA benefits the region’s labor market as youth in safe and permanent homes tend to have better educational outcomes, benefiting the future workforce. A focus today on our future workforce means that Colorado will be better positioned to achieve sustainable economic growth.
Reduced Lifetime Social Costs
A national survey by Voices of Youth Count, a national initiative of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, found that one in 10 American young adults ages 18 to 25 endured some form of homelessness over a 12-month period in 2016 and 2017.i A separate Chapin Hall study explains that housing stability makes it easier for young people to stay in school and achieve educational success, which increases long-term income. Conversely, low educational attainment is a risk factor for homelessness and homelessness is a risk factor for lower educational attainment.ii
Unfortunately, the prevalence of homelessness for children who aged out of foster care, meaning that they turned 18 (or 21, depending upon the state) and legally became an adult before being placed in a permanent home, tends to be even higher. The National Youth in Transition database, as reported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, indicates that 29% of the youth transitioning out of foster care experienced homelessness at some point between the ages of 19 and 21. Data specific to Colorado was even higher at 36% for the same age group.iii
The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative estimated that the lifetime social cost of a teen aging out of foster care was about $300,000 in 2013, including the social costs of incarceration, public assistance, and the value of lost wages.iv Inflating this estimated cost to today’s dollars means that the social cost of someone aging out of foster care in 2023 was approximately $392,000. Therefore, the lifetime cost to taxpayers and communities of the 171 youth who aged out of the Colorado foster care system in 2021 was an estimated $60 million.
Of the 224 children’s cases closed by CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties in FY 2023, 0.9% of these cases were closed due to the child aging out of the foster care system, which is lower than the 5.3% statewide average from FY 2019 to FY 2021. Assuming this differential represents the benefit of CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties, the program resulted in about 10 fewer children aging out of the foster care system in FY 2023, thereby reducing the lifetime cost to the state by about $3.8 million.
Increased Lifetime Earnings
The Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study estimated that the national high school graduation rate for children who were in foster care between 1988 and 1998 was just 56.3%.v Data from the Colorado Department of Education suggests that the four-year graduation rate for foster care students in Colorado is significantly lower, reaching just 30% for the Class of 2022.vi The kids who fail to graduate from high school have a significant disadvantage as they try to find work and earn a living. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school graduates have median earnings 25% higher than those with less than a high school diploma. Further, the unemployment rate for high school graduates was 1.5 percentage points lower than for those without a high school diploma or equivalent in 2022.vii
CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties reported that 71.9% of their children’s cases closed with a permanent home in fiscal year 2023. These children are more likely to remain out of the child welfare system and graduate from high school. Assuming that children with cases closed in FY 2023 through CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties achieved graduation rates similar to the Colorado average of 82.3% in 2022, the improved graduation rate would lead to increased lifetime earnings of $12.6 million.viii
Value of Volunteerism
CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties’ volunteers contributed 18,106 hours of service at an estimated value of $651,400 in fiscal year 2023.ix The time they spend with each child’s case saves the time and expense of social workers and attorneys.
The activities of CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties in 2023 reduced the lifetime social costs and increased the lifetime earnings of the children served, improving Colorado’s communities and labor market.
i Morton, M.H., Dworsky, A., & Samuels, G.M. (2017). Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America: National Estimates. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
ii Kull, M.A., Morton, M.H., Patel, S., Curry, S. & Carreon, E. (2019). Missed Opportunities: Education Among Youth and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness in America. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
iii Annie E. Casey Foundation, National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) – Outcomes File, Cohort Age 17 in FY2014, Waves 1-3 (2018). https://datacenter.aecf.org/
iv Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. (2013). Cost Avoidance: The Business Case for Investing in Youth Aging Out of Care.
v Casey Family Programs. (1998). Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study. Seattle, WA.
vi Colorado Department of Education. (March 2023). 2021-2022 State Policy Report on Dropout Prevention and Student Engagement. http://www.cde.state.co.us/dropoutprevention/final2021-2022statepolicyreportdpse31623
vii U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (May 2023). Career Outlook. Education Pays, 2022. https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2023/data-on-display/education-pays.htm
viii DRP calculation based on The Trellis Company, State of Student Aid in Texas – 2022. https://www.trelliscompany.org/stateof-student-aid-2022/section-8-texas-college-attainment/#BetterEducated
ix DRP calculation based on Independent Sector, The Value of Volunteer Time / State and Historical Data, 2001-2022. https://independentsector.org/resource/value-of-volunteer-time/