By Luis De La Cruz

A recent study confirms the work of Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation’s (AFFCF) Keys to Success and Post-Secondary programs: that young people who have access to case management, life skills resources and direct financial assistance can build more successful lives outside of foster care.

The Study by Arizona State University Professor Thom Reilly and David Schlinkert looked at youth in Clark County, Nevada in 2001 who were transitioning out of foster care. They returned to the same location to examine how this population of youth compared 20 years later after a more robust support service infrastructure was built in Clark County. The researchers conclude that “where extended benefits are available, youth fare considerably better in outcomes such as educational attainment, employment and housing stability.” In fact, the data indicates that total services received by youth that experience foster care, has a greater impact to their future success than even educational attainment.

AFFCF’s Keys to Success program was designed to provide human-centered support to transitional age youth focused on three core elements: (1) baseline secondary education attainment and training, (2) employment and (3) housing.

Knowing that no one journey through foster care is the same, Keys to Success works with youth ages 16 to 26 years, meeting them where they are and tailoring services based on the youth’s present needs and future plans. Youth are empowered to set goals for themselves and work with their Keys to Success workers to achieve them.

Since its inception 10 years ago, we’ve known this approach works. In 2022, Keys to Success recorded the following program outcomes:

  • 80% of program youth secured employment within one year of program enrollment
  • 75% of program youth retained employment for 30 days or longer
  • 78% of program youth gained an employable skill or aptitude within six months of intake
  • 79% of program youth who completed the GED enrolled in post-secondary or vocational training

AFFCF’s Post-Secondary programs are more than just providing financial aid; they acknowledge that often what deters students from attainment is not necessarily the direct cost of attendance, but all the other things that we often don’t think about. Things like summer housing. When school ends, where do they go? What makes AFFCF’s Post-Secondary programs stand apart is that AFFCF provides support that goes beyond financial aid by hosting community-building events and conducting monthly check-ins to ensure we can support students through challenges before it’s too late. It also provides access to emergency type funding so that when life happens or educational policies are not designed to support them, they can focus forward.

In fact, our Post-Secondary Scholarship program also noted positive outcomes for 2022:

  • 92% – AFFCF Scholar graduation rate from a university
  • 57% – AFFCF Scholar graduation rate from a community college

It would be easy to rest on the laurels of these accomplishments. But the reality is our work is not done. Roughly 900 young people exit foster care in Arizona each year. They need and deserve the support to be able to live successful adult lives.

All of us at AFFCF are committed to creating moments of opportunity and success, as well as moments of positive change for each of them. We invite you to join us on the mission as we continue this necessary and vital work.

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