Transitional Living Programs (TLPs) operate within an overarching service framework prescribed by the Family and Youth Services Bureau. In response to a mandated study of long-term outcomes for youth who are served through a TLP, Abt Associates was asked to conduct an impact study of four target outcome areas: (1) safe and stable housing, (2) connection to education or employment, (3) permanent connections (e.g., supportive relationships with adults and peers), and (4) social and emotional well-being.
Abt’s study team considered several research designs and ultimately decided on an experimental design with random assignment, also known as a randomized controlled trial (RCT). This report details our experiences with a pilot of the study design and procedures to assess the feasibility of an RCT. Over a 10-month period, the study team observed the selected programs’ sizes (number of youth served), levels of demand for their services, and determined that a full-scale RCT wasn’t feasible. However important lessons were learned about the challenges and opportunities in designing and implementing an RCT, notably:
- Lessons about selecting grantees for the study,
- Lessons about developing study procedures, and
- Lessons about implementing an RCT with runaway and homeless youth.