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Transitional Living Program Pilot Study of a Randomized Controlled Trial: November 2016 to August 2017

Jessica Thornton Walker, Tanya de Sousa, Elizabeth Copson, Tom McCall, and Alisa Santucci


October 22, 2021

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 Global 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.