Supporting Success is the Casey Family Programs‘ framework for colleges, policymakers, and advocates concerned with improving higher education outcomes for students in foster care. In many ways it overlaps with the findings of the Education Advisory Board‘s report on campus support for students emerging from foster care, a research initiative that was also informed by CFP.
According to the second version of Supporting Success (Dec. 2010), there are more than 500,000 children and youth in foster care in the US on any given day. Each year, about 20,000 of the youth who are 16 or older age out of care. Compared to the national average of 24%, only about 7 to 13% of students from foster care enter college, and only about 2% obtain their bachelor’s degrees. (8) The statistics are especially dismal considering that at least 70% of youth in foster care express a desire to go to college. (7)
Many of the sweeping reforms in the education of youth in or emerging from care were put in place only in the last few years. California, where approximately 25% of all foster youth in the US reside, is particularly commendable for its legal and institutional support of youth transitioning out of care. (Yarrish and Beelat 3) In 2007 the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) launched the Foster Youth Success Initiative (FYSI), which coordinated efforts to strengthen the supports for foster youth across all of the state’s community colleges.
Changes on a national level were brought about by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which introduced policy changes to support older youth in care to improve their success in postsecondary training and education. One piece of that law encourages states to extend public assistance to youth until they turn 21 with the incentive of matching federal payments. (New York is one of those states.) In the same year, the Higher Education Opportunity Act was reauthorized with language that explicitly addressed the need for all colleges to support their students coming from foster care. This focus on college education nicely supplements the work of the Chafee Educational and Training Voucher Program of 2002, which provides resources specifically to meet the educational and training needs of youth transitioning out of care.
Casey Family Programs reviewed what they considered to be some of the more effective support programs available to college students coming out of foster care and synthesized the following framework for other colleges to build upon:
Six necessary elements for program development
- Designated leadership
- Internal and external champions
- Collaborations with community agencies
- Data-driven decision making
- Staff peer support and professional development
- Sustainability planning (13)
Three elements to provide direct student support
- Year-round housing and other basic needs
- Financial aid
- Academic advising, career counseling, and supplemental support
Three additional elements to provide direct student support
- Personal guidance, counseling, and supplemental support
- Opportunities for student community engagement and leadership
- Planned transitions (to college, between colleges, and from college to employment)