2011 Foster Youth Education Summit: From Cradle to College and Career
The Foster Youth Education Task Force Summit and California College Pathway’s Creating a Blueprint Conference teamed up with statewide education and early care initiatives to produce a first-of-its-kind education summit focused on ensuring positive educational and career outcomes for children and youth in foster care.
More than 700 attendees representing a diverse cross-section of social workers, educators, counselors, lawyers, and foster parents from 52 California counties attended the summit. They were joined by a Washington State 40-person contingent with a mission to identify new and successful approaches to improve school stability, increase academic success and educate college-ready students.
Raising The Bar for Youth Engagement
It felt incredible to participate in an event like this where [foster youth] can see that there is an army of people who care about our success this much. I wish all foster youth could hear this message and know that they are not alone.
The unprecedented and active participation of nearly 200 former or current foster youth was a goal of the conference organizers. By designating youth ambassadors and supporting broad conference attendance, organizers were able to substantially increase youth engagement to unmatched levels. These strategies are now being employed to engage foster youth in upcoming events.
Designated youth ambassadors worked to build community of belonging and to encourage youth to speak up and bring their perspectives to the event. This active involvement was evident throughout the conference: in workshops; during panel presentations; in youth-led activities, and interwoven in the countless informal dialogues throughout the two-day event. Participants across the board raved about the youths’ impact on the conference.
Another key element of youth engagement was an engaging two-hour youth panel highlighting the critical role that Guardian Scholars programs play in ensuring that foster youth succeed in school and graduate from college. The articulate and informed panelists drove home a powerful, inspiring message: college is not just a possibility for foster youth; it can and should be a reality.
Many of the attending youths were college-aged youth enrolled in campus support programs in the Stuart Foundation co-funded College Pathways Initiative and had conference scholarships underwritten by The Stuart and Walter S. Johnson Foundations.
Bill Introduced to Give Foster Youth Priority Enrollment in College
The best part of the summit was to be able to interact with so many former foster youth who had beaten the odds and are doing so well! The best part of all was that they were not just doing well, but reaching back and lending a helping hand to the children who are in the shoes they were once in.
At the conference, Assemblymember Jim Beall, D-San Jose, was recognized for his legislation to give foster youth priority enrollment in college.
Under current law, college students who have served in the armed forces or who have disabilities are granted preference when signing up for classes. Students who were foster children would become the third group provided preference (priority enrollment) under AB 194, introduced by the Assemblymember.
Advocates say this would be especially beneficial at the state’s community colleges, where budget cuts have caused the system to slash hundreds of courses and sections, making it increasingly difficult for students to meet their educational goals in a reasonable period of time. Unlike other youth, foster youth have no family to sustain them when they are held back from moving ahead in college.
Access Resources from the Summit
Join Foster Ed Connect
to access information and materials from the Summit. At the homepage, select “Resources,” and then “By Conference.”
Foster Ed Connect is an online community dedicated to finding and sharing knowledge, research and resources to improve the education of California’s foster youth.