More than a year ago, with the support of the Redlich Horwitz Foundation, The Children’s Aid Society formed a statewide coalition of community-based organizations with the purpose of changing the dire outcomes that youth in foster care face when accessing higher education. The former Youth in Care Coalition is now known as the Fostering Youth Success Alliance (FYSA), and it has been hard at work to create lasting impact through advocacy. Its first initiative is to see the establishment of comprehensive support for youth who want to go to college.
Studies show that only between 2 and 7 percent of youth aging out of care earn a college degree. Part of the problem is that only about one of every five youth aging out of care sets foot on a college campus—a third of the rate of the general population.
In December 2014, FYSA launched a campaign aimed at securing state funding for college support. And on April 1, FYSA realized its first major victory when the final budget included $1.5 million for its college success initiative. New York State is now one of 23 states in the country that has in place a statewide program to support youth in care to access and graduate from college. The money will help eliminate the funding gaps that so many foster care face, but it will go beyond that. It will also provide for a support system to help guide these young people through the many other obstacles of going to and succeeding in college—filling out applications, finding housing during breaks, balancing work and education, and much more. The college success initiative is on its way to help youth in foster care close the gap starting this fall. Students who were in foster care before their 13th birthday and attending college at SUNY, CUNY, or a private institution will be identified to receive this funding.
Advocates, colleges, and foster care agencies are working hard to make sure students are identified as youth in care to take advantage of the supports that the initiative provides.