NY: Connecting young people in foster care with a mentor who will stick by them
New York Nonprofit Media – December 13, 2023
The more than 6,700 young people in New York City’s foster care system, almost all of them Black or Hispanic, are at a disadvantage when it comes to aging out of the system and finding success in education and/or employment. A 2022 report found that only 25% of them finished high school in four years versus 77% for New York City high schoolers overall, while earlier research has found that a large percentage of foster-care alumni are unable to obtain or maintain jobs. The disparities are understandable given the discontinuity of loving care and education/career mentorship foster-care youth may experience, especially if they are being shuttled from home to home during their formative adolescent and early adult years. Addressing that discontinuity was the idea behind Fair Futures, a youth-led advocacy movement and coalition of more than 100 organizations and foundations that pairs foster-care youth with long-term one-on-one coaches and other specialists to help them identify and then work toward educational and career goals, including postsecondary degrees and/or meaningful post-high-school work, plus stable housing and social services. In FY2023, the program received its largest annual baseline yet from the city, $30.7 million, to make sure that, starting in middle school, all young people in the city’s foster-care system would have access to the program through age 26. Currently, the program serves nearly 4,000 young people – and has launched offshoots in the city’s juvenile justice system as well as in Buffalo. To a large extent, the program has universalized a mentoring process that once varied from agency to agency, both in terms of its operational model and its ability to track outcomes.