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February 10, 2022

The Power of Partnerships: Nonprofits team up to help bridge the education gap for young people in foster care

Working to increase high school graduation rates and improve college and career readiness

They’re smart. They’re funny. They have weekend plans and dreams for the future. And on any given day, you’ll find them hanging out with friends and doing things typical high-schoolers do. Yet behind the scenes, they’re dealing with challenges most other kids their age know nothing about. They’re kids who have experienced or are experiencing foster care. And through circumstances beyond their control, they find themselves in foster homes and sometimes lacking the support they need to navigate life.

This is the impetus behind an exciting new two-year partnership between InsideTrack and FosterClub, designed to support youth who have experienced or are experiencing foster care as they complete high school and prepare for the transition to higher education or a job.“

To help more youth in foster care achieve their long-term educational and career aspirations after high school, we first need to close the longstanding resource and equity gaps that too often negatively impact young people in the protective care of our child welfare system,” said Ruth Bauer White, president of InsideTrack. “

The data are clear that we must do more to provide the sort of wrap-around support and guidance that can help youth in foster care reach their full potential and the choice-filled adult lives that education can provide.”

The students behind the statistics

On any given day, there are more than 400,000 young people in foster care in the United States. For high school aged youth in foster care, dropout rates are three times higher than their peers. And while 40% of youth who have experienced foster care will enroll in higher education, only 4% will earn a college degree.

But that’s just part of the story. Every year, 20,000 youth age out of the foster care system between the ages of 18 and 21 (depending on the state) — forced to exit the system without having found a forever family, leaving them to fend for themselves. Within 4 years of aging out of the child welfare system, 50% have no earnings — and those who do make an average annual income of $7,500.

Despite there being more than 30 million entry level jobs nationwide, many young people who have experienced foster care aren’t prepared to be independent and lack the skills or resources needed to access the opportunities that could launch them into employment.

For Oregon teenagers in the foster care system, this new partnership hopes to change that by not only helping high school students graduate, but succeed in their lives and achieve their goals.

Funding a fresh start

FosterClub, a national nonprofit network that empowers and supports youth who have experienced or are experiencing foster care, has partnered with InsideTrack to help youth in Oregon navigate the complexity of high school graduation and chart a path to success in college or a career.“

To help more young people from foster care achieve their full educational and career potential, it’s crucial that we find new ways to deliver support, guidance and connection during the transition period from foster care to higher education, the workplace, and young adulthood,” said Celeste Bodner, executive director of FosterClub.

The program is funded by Oregon-based philanthropy Meyer Memorial Trust and a matching grant from Strada Education Network. According to Bekah Sabzalian, equitable education program officer at Meyer Memorial Trust, “This work is about making good on the promise of college access for more students from historically marginalized communities, including foster (children and) youth — and building a more equitable and inclusive state of Oregon.”

Getting involved

With InsideTrack’s own 20+ year mission of serving students — including first-generation students and those who face systemic barriers to success — partnering with FosterClub made perfect sense. The collaboration between FosterClub and InsideTrack began with a 2018 pro-bono project organized and led by InsideTrack employees called “Fostering Potential.” The program provided direct coaching to help high-school-age youth in foster care access and succeed in higher education.

According to Bauer White, “We are excited to be supporting youth in foster care again with this latest partnership. We join FosterClub in their vision of a day when every young person who experiences foster care has what they need to thrive.”

Working with Meyer Memorial Trust, this new partnership will allow us to provide personalized success coaching for youth in the foster care system, greatly increasing the impact.

Setting students up for long-term success

Through structured meetings and on-demand interactions, an InsideTrack success coach will work with each young person to help them build the skills needed for long-term academic and career success — developing tools they can use to effectively finish high school and transition into college or the workforce. Coaches work with their students to develop plans and connect to resources, supporting them in the skill development needed to overcome obstacles and persist by developing a mindset of personal accountability for their own success.

Students will also get support setting goals and connecting their big picture to their educational path in order to increase their commitment to high school graduation or pursuit of a GED. Coaches will also work with students to provide assistance during the college application process, as needed, and help them understand the financial assistance options to support their studies, including completing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access need-based financial aid.

Gaining – and sharing – insights

Research will play a critical role in the program to support youth in foster care, and the organizations involved in the partnership plan to share insights with the broader field of educators, human service professionals, and philanthropies focused on child welfare policy and reform.“

The application of this evidence-based and rigorously tested approach to student coaching with foster youth will bring critical new insights on how we can improve student engagement, persistence and completion,” says the Meyer Memorial Trust’s Bekah Sabzalian.

Fostering a new approach

The reality is that while young people in foster care sometimes have resources available to them, without someone to travel alongside them, like anyone, they can get lost. InsideTrack coaches will provide that support system, giving students someone to help them navigate the process and be there to show them how to help (and advocate for) themselves. For us, this type of mission-aligned partnership is something we’re passionate about.

Meet Yeshi, a FosterClub student from the 2018 cohort InsideTrack coached. Last year, we reunited with her to talk about the impact coaching has had on her life. Hear from this successful college grad.

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