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Making College a Reality for Youth in Foster Care

A new report outlining an approach, and requesting resources to support the college age youth in foster care, was released today and is being considered by lawmakers at the State Capitol in Albany. 

The report, Bridging the Gap: From Foster Care to College Success in New York, authored by the Community Service Society of New York, contains a proposal that will enable foster youth in New York to obtain the necessary financial aid and supportive services to increase their rates of college enrollment, retention and graduation.

"It's time for New York to be in the lead, not the laggard, as to how we support youth in foster care. As the report argues, a statewide program ensuring the college success of youth in care would be a step in the right direction,” said David R. Jones, Esq., President and CEO, Community Service Society of New York.

Acceptance to a college or university is just one hurdle for foster youth to clear. Succeeding becomes even more difficult, due to gaps in funding, difficulty navigating financial aid processes, and the absence of academic and social supports attuned to youth in care. Estimates from national studies suggest college graduation rates of 2-7 percent for foster youth, compared to nearly 60 percent for first-time full-time undergraduates.

People with a bachelor’s degree in New York earn about twice as much annually as those with only a high school diploma. Additionally, the unemployment rate for people with just a high school diploma and no college is about twice the rate for bachelor’s degree holders.  Given the dismal college success rate for youth in care, the adulthood outcomes for foster youth make sense. Consider these facts:

  • A quarter of foster youth will experience homelessness within the first four years of aging out of the system.
  • At age 24, only half of these youth will be employed
  • One in four will be entangled in the justice system within two years of exiting foster care.

The project is a product of the Fostering Youth Success Alliance (FYSA), a coalition of 18 community-based organizations from every corner of New York State, working to establish a comprehensive support system for college-age foster youth to ensure that their success in higher education improves dramatically.  The Alliance is seeking approximately $3 million for what is estimated to be the initial class of 375 youth.

In 2015, approximately 11,000 children and teenagers will enter New York’s foster care system. For some, their stay will be short, a respite from a moment of crisis at home. For many, their entry will mark the beginning of a challenging period in their life with lasting consequences on their health and educational outcomes as well as their socioeconomic futures.

“The longer young people are in foster care, the more difficult it can be for them to exit the system, whether it’s a reunification with their families, or finding an adoptive family to offer a safe, loving home,” said Deb Rosen, Managing Director of Hillside Family of Agencies, a founding member of the Alliance. “This is especially true for older foster youth. And the absence of family supports has substantial repercussions as teens approach adulthood and independence, especially with regard to their decisions about higher education and career opportunities.”

Of the 20,000 youth in New York’s foster care system at any one time, 4,000 are college-age. Only one in five of those youth will ever set foot on a college campus of any kind. By comparison, 60 percent of high school graduates in the general population go on to higher education.

The Alliance is appealing to the state Legislature and Gov. Cuomo for increased funds to help improve lifelong outcomes for foster youth. 

“As children age out of New York’s foster care system, they need our help to ensure they find success at the next level. These young people often have difficulty navigating the process that will lead them to higher education and ultimately to employment. It is important that we make the necessary investments that provide them with the programs and services that will enable them to succeed. I fully support the recommendations advanced by the Fostering Youth Success Alliance” said Assemblymember Donna Lupardo.

“The research is clear—youth who complete college are significantly more likely to obtain employment, earn a living wage and become successful adults. Implementing these recommendations will help ensure that youth transitioning out of the foster care system will successfully complete college” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick.

“If government helps these youth get into college and stay there, their lives will improve substantially,” Phoebe Boyer, President and CEO of the Children’s Aid Society, a lead organization in the Alliance. “Currently 22 states offer full tuition waivers to foster youth, and some go even further in providing supports. New York is not yet one of those states, but the Fostering Youth Success Alliance will be advocating to change that situation in 2015.”

Members of the FYSA Steering Committee are:

Care Management Coalition of Western NY (http://cmcwny.org/ )
Region – Buffalo

The Children’s Aid Society (http://www.childrensaidsociety.org/ )
Region – New York

Council of Family & Child Caring Agencies (http://www.cofcca.org/ )
Region – Statewide

Community Service Society of New York (http://www.cssny.org/ )
Region – New York

Elmcrest Children’s Center (http://www.elmcrest.org/ )
Region – Syracuse

Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (http://www.fpwa.org/cgi-bin/iowa/home/index.html )
Region – New York

FEGS Health & Human Services (http://www.fegs.org/ )
Region – New York

Good Shepherd Services (http://www.goodshepherds.org/ )
Region – New York

Graham Windham (http://www.graham-windham.org/ )
Region – New York

Hillside Family of Agencies (http://www.hillside.com/ )
Region – Rochester, Western and Central

Hope for Youth (www.hfyny.org )
Region – Nassau & Suffolk

New Directions for Youth & Family Services (http://fosteringgood.org/ )
Region – Buffalo

New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children
http://www.nycourts.gov/ip/justiceforchildren/
Region - Statewide

New Yorkers for Children (http://newyorkersforchildren.org/ )
Region – New York

Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy (http://www.scaany.org/ )
Region – Statewide

Westchester Children’s Association (http://www.wca4kids.org/ )
Region – Westchester

Youth In Progress (http://www.youthinprogress.org/ )
Region – Statewide

Youth Power (www.youthpowerny.org )
Region – Statewide

The Children’s Aid Society is an independent, nonprofit organization established to serve the children of New York City.  Our mission is to help children in poverty to succeed and thrive. We do this by providing comprehensive supports to children and their families in targeted high-needs New York City neighborhoods. Founded in 1853, it is one of the nation’s largest and most innovative non-sectarian agencies, serving New York’s neediest children. Services are provided in community schools, neighborhood centers, health clinics and camps. For additional information, please call Anthony Ramos at (212) 949-4938/ (917) 204-8214, email anthonyr@childrensaidsociety.org or visit www.childrensaidsociety.org.

 

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