NEW YORK, Feb. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 140 leaders from higher 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 systems.
"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 not believing that college is possible, much less the support to get there and graduate. There are many ways that each of us can change this story."
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, Changing the Story: Building pathways to self-sufficiency for youth transitioning from child welfare and juvenile justice, 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."
Schiraldi cited CUNY's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative as one of the important resources available to youth transitioning from foster care and juvenile justice, explaining that it creates support networks among the students themselves and has halved the time it takes to obtain an Associate's Degree. "It's not a home run, but it's a bunch of singles and doubles," he said.
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."
Fedcap helps people break through barriers to achieve long-term economic independence. Our programs and operations bring education and the power of work to youth in transition, adults with conviction histories, veterans, individuals with disabilities and many others facing barriers to employment. We place people in jobs across a wide variety of sectors and employ more than 1,800 in our own businesses. Fedcap is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. For more information or to make a donation, call 212-727-4200 or visit www.fedcap.org. Follow Fedcap on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/fedcap) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/Fedcap).