Serving Foster Youth in California Community Colleges

2008  |  Darla M. Cooper, Pamela Mery, and Elisa Rassen, RP Group

Qualitative research study designed to provide an overview of how California community colleges meet the needs of current and former foster youth. 

Every year, approximately 4,000 youth “age out” or “emancipate” from California’s foster care system upon reaching the age of 18. Although some former foster youth are able to, with support, move immediately into four-year colleges to pursue Bachelor’s degrees, community colleges play a critical role for the majority of emancipated youth pursuing higher education. Even with the affordable tuition and open access that community colleges offer, former foster youth must still tackle housing, transportation, books, food, and many other needs; therefore, providing former foster youth with comprehensive student support on all levels is critical to their success.

In an effort to provide an overview of how California community colleges meet the needs of current and former foster youth, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation commissioned the Research and Planning Group’s Center for Student Success, with assistance and support from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Foster Youth Success Initiative, to prepare a report that would:

  • Provide for a better understanding of the needs of emancipated foster youth enrolled at community colleges;
  • Examine successful responses to student needs from community colleges statewide;
  • Identify challenges faced by community colleges in meeting student needs; and
  • Make recommendations as to how programs can be enhanced, expanded, and improved.

This report summarizes key findings from a survey of Foster Youth Liaisons at community colleges statewide, a survey of community college students who are former foster youth, and interviews with staff at 12 colleges across the state, including site visits to two of these colleges, and presents a list of recommendations on how to strengthen efforts at both the state and local level to serve former foster youth attending community colleges.

This study provided a research foundation for the creation of the Community College Pathways for Foster Youth (CCP), a million dollar initiative funded by the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to assist campus programs in improving college and career outcomes for former foster youth at ten California community colleges.

Read the full report here.

Review a Journal of Applied Research in the Community College article here.  

For more information, contact Dr. Darla Cooper,