July 26, 2023

With the Help of JBAY, LA County Makes Higher Education a Priority for Foster Youth

With the Help of JBAY, LA County Makes Higher Education a Priority for Foster Youth

A new school year is soon about to start, and thousands of youth in foster care in California are entering their senior year of high school, when they will apply for college.  Unfortunately, these young people are at a disadvantage when it comes to college enrollment and graduation. Just 10 percent obtain a two- or four-year degree by the age of 23 compared to 36 percent of their non-foster youth peers. 

John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) is working to change that statewide, including in Los Angeles County, home of the nation’s largest child welfare agency. Starting this summer, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services has started to implement a new requirement to train its 5,000+ social workers on how to promote post-secondary education among foster youth, using a curriculum developed by JBAY.  

Jennie Feria is the Deputy Director at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. She recently communicated the agency’s commitment to higher education for foster youth in an agency-wide communication. “The Department and key partners continue to make concerted efforts to support practices that promptly identify and address youth’s educational needs. Daily, our social workers seek to remove obstacles and create opportunities that offset the disadvantages of our young people…Together, as change-makers, we can help pave the way.” 

According to JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley, partners like Los Angeles County are critical.  “LA County really gets it; they know that in the 21st century, we must provide foster youth with post-secondary training to be economically stable and secure. We are delighted that LA County is integrating JBAY’s materials into their practice and appreciate that they are pushing the boundaries of what the foster care system can do for young people.” 

In addition to developing its 4.5 hour social worker training, JBAY has developed comprehensive college preparation materials for adults working with young people and another set of materials designed for youth specifically. The materials designed for adults include a comprehensive education planning guide (available, in English and Spanish), grade-specific planning checklists, video profiles of young people on a range of topics, and a complete list of financial aid resources. The youth materials are designed to be accessible and engaging for youth and young adults.  

JBAY Education Director Debbie Raucher recently worked on legislation, authored by California State Senator Angelique Ashby and Senator Mike McGuire that increases financial aid for foster youth. This new funding, together with the practical guidance included in JBAY’s planning materials, puts college within reach for foster youth in California. “We’ve come a long way in our efforts to make college accessible to youth in foster care. LA County is leading these efforts by making college preparation a central child welfare responsibility, instead of an afterthought.”