Fedcap Solution Series
More than 120 leaders from education, government, business and nonprofits joined Fedcap on Wednesday to explore how to build college and careers into the lives of youth transitioning from child welfare and juvenile justice.
“Each year, thirty thousand young people move from foster care toward an adulthood that too often includes poverty and poor health,” said Christine McMahon, Fedcap President & CEO. “They grow up without even the idea of going to college, much less the support to get there and graduate. There are many ways that each of us can make a difference.”
For many youth who grow up without a permanent family and a supportive structure that encourages academic and career achievements, the outcomes are bleak. Seventy percent of youth aging out of foster care say they want to attend college, but only 10 percent enroll, and less than 2 percent graduate with a four-year degree. Many youth aging out of other child-caring systems are at-risk of homelessness, becoming victims of sex trafficking or face incarceration.
Wednesday’s panel discussion was an event of the Fedcap Solution Series™. The panelists were Shay Bilchik, Founder and Director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute; Ronald E. Richter, Commissioner, New York City Administration for Children’s Services; Jeannine Balfour, Senior Program Officer, Domestic Programs at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and Vincent N. Schiraldi, Commissioner, New York City Department of Probation.
“This is about wellbeing. It’s about how we systemically create the supports that ensure the wellbeing for these children as they move through early childhood, adolescence and early adulthood,” said Bilchik. “The work that Fedcap and other organizations are doing gets us to a whole new level, so we can provide the networking and internships and the supports these kids need to be successful.”
“Every single kid needs something completely different from the next kid, and that’s always really hard when you’re trying to make system change,” said Richter. “Kids are unique and they are entitled to have the system respond to them uniquely.”
“A college-going culture starts with the person that any youth interacts with the most,” said Balfour. “Many foster youth do not have that conversation at a younger age with their caregiver or the person who is their advocate.”
In New York, the impact that places like Fedcap, Fortune Society and The Osborne Association has had in providing support simply isn’t available [in other cities],” said Schiraldi. “They have made a difference in people’s lives.”
Phyllis Willis, College Coordinator at Fedcap Washingtonians for Children and a foster alumna, closed the event with a message of hope: “If we all stand together, we can change the story for the youth in our child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and increase the number of those who graduate, get a good education and reach self-sufficiency."