Jim Casey Initiative Sites Pilot College Readiness Model

Posted January 13, 2021, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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Three sites with the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative® have been selected to participate in a college readiness pilot for youth who have experienced foster care.

The pilot advances the Fostering Higher Education (FHE) model, which supports a key objective of the Jim Casey Initiative’s work: ensuring that young people exiting foster care have the relationships, resources and opportunities needed to thrive. FHE has several evidence-based components and leverages resources — such as an education advocate, opportunities for mentorship and a specialized curriculum —aimed at helping youth with foster care experience make the leap from high school to college.

Researchers Amy Salazar of Washington State University and Kevin Haggerty of the University of Washington developed FHE and aided in selecting the following Jim Casey Initiative sites for the pilot:

Foster Success, Indiana

Based in Indiana, Foster Success collaborates with the Indiana Department of Child Services Older Youth Initiative, the Indiana Commission of Higher Education and the Jim Casey Initiative. The nonprofit works to ensure that young people transitioning from foster care — particularly youth of color — have the resources they need to graduate from high school on time and access post-secondary education and workforce development programs. Foster Success has also focused on directly supporting youth via an innovative design of Indiana’s Education and Training Voucher program.

Foster Success will pilot FHE in the Northwest region of Indiana — home to the state's highest share of Black students — and use it to strengthen existing services for students with foster care experience.

The Multi-Agency Alliance for Children (MAAC), Georgia

MAAC operates a range of programs aimed at helping older youth in foster care — particularly older Black youth — achieve equity academically and professionally. The organization collaborates with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services and local colleges, including the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

MAAC reports contributing to a meaningful increase in high school graduation rates among Black youth in the Atlanta region. They aim to further these efforts via the FHE pilot, with a focus on removing barriers for Black male and parenting students.

The Youth Policy Institute of Iowa (YPII), Iowa

YPII — a Jim Casey Initiative participant since 2005 — has realized measurable gains in high-school graduation rates among Iowan youth in foster care. Yet, the state’s post-secondary enrollment and completion rates continue to fall short of the national average. The FHE pilot will bolster YPII's efforts to begin connecting with students in high school and provide consistent services and support as they transition to college.

YPII will implement FHE in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Human Services, the Iowa Aftercare Services Network, and Foundation 2, which is an innovative community-based organization offering extensive services to transition-age youth. The pilot will serve the Cedar Rapids area, which has a high concentration of kids of color in foster care, including Black, and Indigenous youth.

Ilene Berman, a senior associate with the Casey Foundation’s Evidence-Based Practice Group, believes that the three pilot sites share distinct strengths, including a history of building and using evidence, a commitment to promoting racial equity, a proven record of improving outcomes for older youth in foster care, and a plan for FHE to fill gaps in their current efforts.

“At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has created so many difficulties for students with few resources, we believe the FHE approach will demonstrate the difference that the right connections and support can make and also the benefit when students succeed,” says Berman.

Catherine Lester, a senior associate with the Foundation who works with the Jim Casey Initiative, expects the pilot to help shape her field’s efforts to partner with youth. “Engaging, supporting, and sharing power with those with lived experience is a racial equity strategy, and this pilot is yet another way for us to deepen our ability to do that.”

Learn about the economic benefit of helping young people exiting care extend their academic ladder beyond high school

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