Field Center announces first statewide ‘Foster Care to College’ cohort

The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania has announced its first statewide cohort of colleges selected to establish campus-based support programs for former foster youth.

From a highly competitive pool of applicants, the Field Center has chosen Bloomsburg University, Kutztown University, East Stroudsburg University, Penn State University-Greater Allegheny, Community College of Allegheny-South Campus, and Westmoreland County Community College to receive training and technical assistance in the development of campus-based support programs for foster youth. With help from the Field Center and its Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow Seth Morones, the institutions will provide additional supports to help former foster youth succeed in college.

“Only 14 percent of foster youth who attend college eventually earn a degree. Most don’t make it beyond their freshman year,” Debra Schilling Wolfe, the executive director of the Field Center, said. “They lack what other college students take for granted: someone to help them adjust to college life, work through challenges, or provide encouragement when they are feeling overwhelmed. It’s difficult for them to navigate complex systems in order to address concerns about housing or financial aid. They’re on their own. That’s why having the support of the university is essential, and it starts with a single-point-of-contact within the institution to help guide foster youth.”

Stemming from a multi-year collaboration among 50 partners, including child-welfare agencies, independent-living and school-readiness programs, colleges, financial-aid agencies, and governmental and non-profit organizations across Pennsylvania, the Field Center has developed best practices for recruiting, retaining, and providing support for students transitioning from foster care to college.

The newest group of Pennsylvania colleges and universities joins Chestnut Hill College, Manor College, Montgomery County Community College, and Penn State-Abington, whose programs are now in formation. The first group was comprised of Cabrini University, Community College of Philadelphia, Temple University, and West Chester University, all of which have programs currently up and running. Four more schools will be selected in the spring, bringing the total number of institutions in the initiative to 18.

The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research connects experts from Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice, Law School, Perelman School of Medicine, and School of Nursing, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to bring critical change to the child-welfare system by shaping policy through research and system reform.

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