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Connecting the Dots: Working across Systems to Improve Postsecondary Outcomes for Youth in State Care

Friday, September 14th marked Rhode Island's first Postsecondary Education Summit for Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF)-Involved Youth

Survey results1,2 show that foster youth have the desire to attend postsecondary education.  Although a portion of foster youth enroll in postsecondary education,3 most are not earning postsecondary degrees.4  To encourage greater postsecondary access and graduation, a number of states offer tuition assistance or waivers to youth who have aged out of foster care.

In Rhode Island, the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) offers the Post Secondary Education Tuition Assistance Program for DCYF-involved youth to receive up to 35 percent of the cost of college.  However, only one in three applicants in the 2011‐2012 academic year received the funding and used it to enroll in college.5

On Friday, September 14th, members of the Rhode Island DCYF and the secondary and postsecondary education communities came together to examine opportunities and barriers to postsecondary access, retention, and graduation among former foster youth.  The summit featured remarks from Governor Lincoln Chafee, the Director of DCYF, Dr. Janice DeFrances, and members of the General Assembly and Family Court.  The highlight of the day was a vibrant panel discussion between former foster youth and top administrators from Rhode Island's secondary and postsecondary institutions.

The speakers and panel members provided critical guidance for three solution-focused work groups, to address the issues of college readiness and access, financial aid, and postsecondary supports.  In the true spirit of collaboration, summit attendees brainstormed practice enhancements in these areas in order to improve postsecondary outcomes for DCYF-involved youth.

Sponsors for this summit included the Rhode Island:

  • Department of Children, Youth and Families
  • Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Board of Governors for Higher Education
  • The Voice, Youth Leadership Board
  • Foster Parents Association
  • Council of Resource Providers

For more information:

  • Check out this Fact Sheet about postsecondary outcomes for youth in state care by the Rhode Island Foster Parents Association.
  • Read "Sending foster youth to college", featured in The Providence Journal, to learn more about Rhode Island's first Postsecondary Education Summit for DCYF-Involved Youth.

1 Courtney, M.E., Terao, S., & Bost, N. (2004). Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth: Conditions of youth preparing to leave state care. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago
2 McMillen, C. Auslander, W. Elze, D., White, T., & Thompson, R. (2003). Educational experiences and aspirations of older youth in foster care. Child Welfare 82(4), 475-495.
3 Courtney, M.E., Dworsky, A., Brown, A., Cary, C., Love, K. & Vorhies, V. (2011). Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth: Outcomes at age 26. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall Center for Children at the Uni-versity of Chicago.
4 Pecora, P.J., Kessler, R.J., Williams, J., Downs, A.C., English, D.J., White, J. & O’Brien, K. (2009). What Works in Foster Care?: Key Components of Success From the Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study. New York: Oxford Uni-versity Press.
5 Sending Foster Youth to College. (2012, September 14). The Providence Journal.