The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved the expansion of a pilot program to keep foster youth in high school.
The program was pioneered in 2008 as a joint effort between Supervisor Gloria Molina’s office, school districts in the San Gabriel Valley, the Department of Children and Family Services, other county departments and agencies and Casey Family Programs.
“When we began this pilot program years ago, our goal was simply to reverse our high school drop-out rates among our foster youth by developing a solid education plan to address each child’s unique need,” Molina said.
“Three years later, a total of 423 youth have participated in the program – and we enjoy an 80 percent high school graduation rate.”
Molina said intense collaboration between DCFS social workers and school district staff has been key to the program’s success.
Staffers check students’ grades weekly, set up tutoring sessions and transportation assistance, and help participants schedule summer school classes, SAT prep courses and exams and plan college tours. The assistance is based on an educational plan tailored to suit each individual student.
The program was piloted in the Pomona and Montebello unified school districts and now includes several other districts, including Los Angeles Unified.
In June 2011, 175 foster youth participated. Twenty-three were seniors: 18 graduated, 11 enrolled in community college, one went on to train at a vocational school and two went directly to a four-year university, according to Molina.
Youth in foster care are among the most at-risk population in Los Angeles County, particularly during the transition from foster care to adulthood. Molina cited research showing that foster youth often fare worse on standardized tests and report higher dropout rates, absenteeism and truancy.
Based on the board’s unanimous vote, the educational program will be expanded to 15 more schools.