The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Foster Youth Initiative supports transition age youth in foster care in Los Angeles County and New York City toward becoming self-sufficient and thriving adults. Currently in its second phase (2017 to 2022), the Initiative equips transition age youth ages 16 to 24 for career and college success. To help foster youth achieve positive education and employment outcomes, grantees provide a continuum of services designed through policy change and advocacy, research and evaluation, and innovative programs to help youth gain the skills and support they need to thrive. Grantees also provide targeted support to expectant and parenting foster youth, and those who cross over into the juvenile justice system.

This report by Child Trends, the Initiative’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning partner since 2018, summarizes some of the major accomplishments, challenges and lessons learned over the past year. Significant developments include:

  • In New York City, the Fair Futures campaign made tremendous progress and holds the potential to transform the programmatic landscape for foster youth. The city has also advanced innovative strategies for foster parent recruitment and retention, and new data shows a dramatic decline in the number of foster youth becoming young parents or crossing over into the juvenile justice system.
  • In Los Angeles, an increased number of foster youth ages 14 to 17 are living in stable family placements. School districts are signing agreements with the child welfare agency to share the cost of transportation to keep foster youth at their school of origin when placements change, and the percentage of high school seniors in foster care applying for financial aid nearly doubled from 2018 to 2019 – significantly increasing the likelihood that they will attend college.

The evaluation framework developed by Child Trends tracks progress toward the goals of the Initiative by identifying grantee and Foundation contributions, and highlighting opportunities to further collective progress. Recommendations listed in the report will inform the work of the Initiative moving forward.

Further research by Child Trends on measuring progress in postsecondary education is captured in the attached brief by Jan DeCoursey and Amy McKlindon. This includes key opportunities and challenges facing transition age youth in foster care, as well as implications for the field. These findings are vital to understanding how we can support education pathways for students in foster care during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.