We know that a large percentage of youth who “age out” of foster care have poor economic well-being outcomes including joblessness, homelessness, and long-term poverty). We learned that a large % of youth in care wanted to go to college but a very low % actual went to college and graduated (in some reports as low as 3%). According to a 2019 report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (and this has been generally consistent for the past decade) high school graduates earn 48% of college graduate average wages. In other words, a high school graduate earns a median wage of $27,708 as compared to a college graduate who makes $53,091 a year. We decided that one way to address the long-term economic outcomes for youth transitioning from foster care was to change their college entrance and graduation rates. A very precise intervention for a serious and specific problem. We began by asking the basic question, how do any of us become inspired to go to college and who supports us in our quest? The answer is in most cases our parents. And so we wondered, could a focus on helping foster parents create a college going culture in their homes impact college entrance and graduation rates of youth in their care? We began by asking 500+ foster parents what they thought their role was in helping youth in their care go to college. The results were informative. For the most part foster parents did not see this as their role. And our research taught us that the mandatory training provided to foster parents did not focus on helping foster parents learn the skills or build the competencies required to help a young person successfully enter college and graduate. With generous funding from the Conrad Hilton, Pinkerton and Stuart Foundations, we created PrepNOW!™ a web-based professional development course devoted to helping foster parents learn how to inspire and motivate youth in their care to go to college. It helps foster parents cultivate an environment of learning in their homes. It teaches the specific skills required to navigate the college application process, complete the personal essay, completing financial aid forms, etc. The results based on an evaluation from the American Institute for Research demonstrate that when foster parents become invested in the academic success of youth in their care, when they are engaged in helping youth enter college, when they stay connected to youth during that all important freshman year, college entrance and graduation outcomes improve significantly. Youth go to college at the same rates as their peers in the general public and their rates of persistence and college graduation are near 80%.
We believe that changing college attendance and graduation rates for youth in care is one solution to the issue of poor economic outcomes for youth transitioning from foster care.
We are also testing interventions in the Criminal Justice area.
According to the National Institute of Justice, 68% of prisoners are arrested for a new crime within three years of their release from prison. As a society, we must do better. In our work, we have learned that the single most important factor to support successful integration is having a bridge between in jail-settings and the community. This makes sense. Our interventions begin “inside the walls” building relationships with prisoners that continue upon release. While incarcerated, we work with prisoners to address issues and behaviors that impact successful re-entry including mental health, substance use, family relationships, and work readiness/skill building. AND, we are there when they re-enter society, we work with them to find housing, employment and services. We help the individual stay focused on what is important—with the goal of not reoffending.
To date, upon release only 26% have reoffended within the first three years and nearly 50% have obtained full-time employment.