Each year, approximately 4,000 youth “age out” or “emancipate” from California’s foster care system upon reaching the age of 18. Community colleges play a critical role for the majority of emancipated youth pursuing higher education. Even with the affordable tuition and open access that community colleges offer, former foster youth must still tackle housing, transportation, books, food, and many other needs. Providing former foster youth with comprehensive student support on all levels is critical to their success.
This study documents the experiences and needs of former foster youth enrolled in California Community Colleges, investigates the successes and challenges of community colleges responding to those needs, and makes recommendations to improve the educational success of former foster youth. To achieve these outcomes, the study employed a mixed-methods design that included a survey of community college staff throughout California, a statewide survey of former foster youth students, and interviews with the college staff who works directly with former foster youth at 12 selected colleges.
The findings indicate that, although many California Community Colleges have made strides toward meeting the needs of students from special populations, additional support is needed to assist these students, including former foster youth, in both succeeding academically and achieving economic security and personal fulfillment. Specifically, there is a need for improved data collection and program evaluation, additional assistance with financial aid and housing, the creation of a broad network of support within each college, the utilization of a case management approach, and increased resource development to support programs that serve
former foster youth.
The results of this research provided a foundation for the creation of the Community College Pathways for Foster Youth (CCP), a million dollar initiative funded by The Walter S. Johnson Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to assist campus programs in improving college and career outcomes for former foster youth at 10 California community colleges.
RP Group Lead
Dr. Darla Cooper, Director of Research and Evaluation
RP Group Project Team Members
Pamela Mery, Elisa Rassen
The Walter S. Johnson Foundation
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Foster Youth Success Initiative
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