learn / 2020

United Friends Scholars Program

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by United Friends of the Children

The Scholars Program is specifically designed to meet the critical need for high-touch, relationship-focused programming focusing on the educational attainment of youth in Los Angeles County’s foster care system. Providing a suite of services including educational case management and advocacy, college-readiness workshops, college tours, enrichment activities, youth development, and peer-led leadership opportunities, academic support, and financial aid, LA foster youth are able to bridge the gap between them and their non-foster peers.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

What is the need you’re responding to?

Los Angeles County is home to the largest population of foster youth in the country with nearly 30,000 youth in care. Often without supports and stable a home life, too many foster youth confront far too many obstacles to their success in life. The mental and emotional challenges, lack of stability and attachments, and sadly, the violence and abuse often experienced by young people in the system translate into disproportionately high rates of homelessness, incarceration, poor academic achievement, unemployment, and a reliance on public assistance. Youth in foster care experience particular challenges related to obtaining an education. In academic year 2018/19, only 57.3% of LA County foster youth graduated high school compared to 84.2% overall. This represents a significant achievement gap, especially when compared against graduation rates for other vulnerable subgroups – socioeconomically disadvantaged (82.6%), migrant youth (89.1%), and homeless youth (75.5%).

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

United Friends has been providing educational support services to Los Angeles County’s foster youth since 2003. The experience and success of youth in our programs (+90% graduation rate, 80% college matriculation rate), makes us uniquely qualified to expand services into the Antelope Valley. To deliver these services, we hire and train college-focused counselors with professional backgrounds in college counseling and/or the social services field, providing a unique and effective blend of expertise. United Friends also utilizes the evidence-based practices Motivational Interviewing and Positive Youth Development Strategies to work in tandem with academic improvement and college preparation. Finally, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the educational systems further exacerbating the need for Scholars Program counselors to provide one-on-one educational case management and oversight to ensure youth in foster care receive the individual attention necessary in such an isolating situation.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

700
Direct impact
500
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

The broader impact is observed in the foster and biological families as well. Counselors are a frequent presence in the home, building relationships with caregivers who become a primary referral source for the program. Additionally, an annual conference draws hundreds of foster youth, caregivers, social workers, and group home staff providing college readiness workshops and motivation to key stakeholders throughout the county. In response to COVID-19, families are provided technology to ensure digital touchpoints are accessible in lieu of face-to-face contact. Finally, as youth transition from college and into careers, they begin to provide the much-needed stability as pillars of support to their own communities and family units.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Evaluating the success of the programs is achieved through in-depth data collection and analysis and is led by our Director of Impact and Evaluation. The organization currently utilizes Social Solution’s Apricot system, an encrypted cloud-based case management/outcomes database, to record and analyze participant and administrative data for our programs. This upgraded software allows for more efficient tracking of data points such as participation in key activities, indicators for success, and a youth’s progress toward their goals. Program staff routinely monitor progress towards outcomes utilizing this data monthly and at annual retreats. We also use the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) database to help confirm the attendance and progression of students through college. This enables us to further track student progress beyond their participation in our program.

Our vision is to close the significant achievement gap between youth in foster care and their non-foster peers. We will be successful when foster youth access institutions of higher education at rates meeting and exceeding the general population – in turn providing the ability to take back control of their lives and create the future they desire. To this end, outcomes for Scholars Program include:

  • 90% of students will graduate high school
  • 85% of students will matriculate to college
  • 70% of college scholars will earn a college degree

Which of the learn metrics will your submission impact?​

  • College graduates
  • College matriculation
  • High school graduation rates

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?

  • LA is the best place to CONNECT
  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Access to the LA2050 community
  • Communications support
  • Capacity, including staff
  • Strategy assistance and implementation