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February 2009Vol. 10, No. 1Community Colleges Reach Out to Foster Youth

Community colleges can provide a wide range of educational opportunities to former foster youth because of their affordability and accessibility. These 2-year colleges can help underprepared students ready themselves for a 4-year institution or provide the technical skills needed for rapid career entry. Even with these advantages, many former foster youth face barriers in attending community college. A recent report from the Research & Planning Group for California Community Colleges explores how community colleges can best provide educational opportunities to current and former foster youth.

Researchers surveyed former foster youth attending community colleges and conducted a series of interviews and site visits at 12 community colleges throughout California. Results revealed some of the challenges that youth and colleges face:

  • Colleges have scarce services and limited and/or untrained staff to assist former foster youth.
  • Students need help with housing, transportation, and financial resources.
  • Colleges need a way to identify foster youth easily.
  • No college has a system in place to assess the effectiveness of its interventions and monitor outcomes for former foster youth.

Citing successful approaches to serving current and emancipated foster youth, the report makes recommendations to improve personal and educational outcomes for students. These include:

  • Building a collaboration between public and private sectors to expand opportunities and promote best practices
  • Developing a tracking system to monitor youth outcomes
  • Educating and training staff to increase awareness of available services
  • Building a broad network of support for foster youth within the college
  • Using a team and/or case management approach to tailor service provision to student needs

The report, Serving Former Foster Youth in California Community Colleges: Successes, Challenges, and Recommendations, was written by Darla M. Cooper, Pamela Mery, and Elisa Rassen and includes a discussion of methodology, a glossary, and survey results. It is available for download on the Research & Planning Group website: (361 KB)