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Family and Children's
Resource Program

Vol. 23, No. 1
May 2018

Assessing Readiness to Transition Out of Foster Care

It can be hard to know how to best help youth in foster care prepare for independence. What skills are most important to emphasize? What areas are most vital for long-term success? The fact that every young person is different can make answering these questions challenging.

Fortunately, there are several tools available to help. Most are designed to be self-administered by youth, but can also be used in an interview format. These assessments can help young people identify the strengths they have to support their transition to adulthood. They can also be used to figure out where more support and skill practice may be needed before they exit foster care.

When self-assessments are retaken on a regular basis, they can show youth how their life skills have improved over time and build a sense of self-efficacy. Most importantly, these tools can start and facilitate transition planning conversations between youth in care, the professionals working with them, and their resource parents.

Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment
The NC Division of Social Services recommends the Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment, often called the "Casey Life Skills Assessment" or CLSA, as the preferred tool for assessing transition readiness (NC DSS, 2010). The CLSA is a free, web-based tool consisting of 113 questions divided into eight areas: Daily Living, Self-Care, Relationships and Communication, Housing and Money Management, Work and Study, Career and Education Planning, Looking Forward, and Permanency. Responses are given on a 5-point scale from "No" to "Yes."

The CLSA takes 30-40 minutes to complete, and is appropriate for youth in any living situation, which makes it a good fit for young adults participating in NC's Foster Care 18-21 program. It's also available in Spanish.

The CLSA was designed by self-sufficiency experts with input from focus groups of youth, caregivers, and child welfare staff (Nollan, 2000). Studies have shown it to have high reliability, meaning that the data the CLSA collects is consistent from person to person (Naccarato, et al., 2008). However, no formal studies have been conducted on the validity of the tool, meaning it has not been empirically shown to measure what it purports to measure.

This assessment is strengths-based. Because it measures skills in different domains, older youth tend to score higher than younger ones. This is to be expected, since people acquire more life skills as they age and have more opportunities to practice the skills required for independence.

Caregivers can also complete the CLSA on their own based on their knowledge of a young person. Differences in self-assessment results and the observations made by a caregiver can be instructional for case workers; using both perspectives may give more validity to the assessment.

CLSA and Supporting Guides

Transition Readiness Scale 3.0
If you want to supplement the CLSA with a shorter, less formal self-assessment, you may want to try out a tool published by Independent Living Resources, Inc. Their Transition Readiness Scale 3.0 (TRS 3.0) is a free tool "created by young adults for young adults," and it aims to generate greater emotional investment in transition planning by youth (ILR, 2017).

The TRS 3.0 was developed in 2016 and updated in 2017 and 2018. It was developed by 33 young adults from four North Carolina counties. These individuals had either transitioned from foster care or were in the process of transitioning.

The TRS 3.0 uses easy-to-understand, non-clinical language that is meant to be relatable to young people. The scale is intended to be self-administered by young adults, either individually or in groups. ILR hopes this scale, written in the language of youth with lived experience of foster care, will encourage young adults to take a more active role in transition planning.

The TRS 3.0 is structured into 13 areas: Work Experiences, Educational and Vocational, Transportation, Social and Emotional Health, Illegal Behaviors, Physical and Mental Health, Housing, Interpersonal Skills, Connectedness, Financial Literacy, Money Management, Life Skills, and Parenting.

Overall skill level in each area is rated on a 5-point scale from "Crisis" to "Very Prepared." Examples are included to describe what ratings may look like for each area. Brief, targeted suggestions for skill improvement are offered in a "Try This" box that corresponds to each rating.

The assessment takes 13-20 minutes to complete the first time, and less time thereafter. It's recommended that youth re-take the assessment every six months to gauge their progress. Independent Living Resources is collecting data on results and usage, and welcomes feedback from those who have used the scale. (Please email feedback to

The TRS 3.0 can be found online here:

Self-assessments can be used to individualize transition plans and skill development efforts, so youth are prepared when they transition out of foster care. Both the CLSA and the TRS 3.0 encourage young people to engage in dialogue with caregivers and case workers about their transition planning. This is a good thing, because assessments of transition readiness are most useful when young people actively participate and feel a sense of ownership in the process.

Related Resources

FosterClub's Transition Toolkit. Recommended by Casey Family Programs (n.d.) and the Children's Bureau (2013). Provides youth with a roadmap for thinking about building life skills and preparing to leave care, with a planning worksheet for each skill area. Free to download and print in black and white, or full-color booklets can be ordered.

Permanency Pact. Another free tool by FosterClub.

Financial Empowerment Toolkit. Created by the National Resource Center for Youth Development for use by case workers, foster parents, and other supportive adults.

Additional Casey Assessments. For other populations in foster care (e.g., youth who are pregnant/parenting, LGBTQ, American Indian, homeless, etc.), these assessments are meant to be offered in conjunction with the CLSA to help workers get a more complete understanding of a youth's skills and transition readiness.

References for this and other articles in this issue