On Tuesday January 29th more than 60college-age foster youth joined child welfare workers and other advocates for Fostering Youth Success Alliance’s (FYSA) annual advocacy day in Albany. Advocates met with dozens of senators and assemblymembers to share their stories and stress the importance of full funding for New York State’s Foster Youth College Success Initiative (FYCSI).
FYCSI supports 570 foster youth on 78 different public and private campuses across New York State. This year the program calls for $6 million in funding, yet Governor Andrew Cuomo allocated only $1.5 million to assure foster youth have access to higher education in his 2019-2020 executive budget. . As a result, without legislative support of $4.5 million hundreds of foster youth are at risk of losing the resources necessary to continue their education and build successful lives for themselves into adulthood.
$6 million may represent less than a drop in the bucket for New York, just one three hundredth of a percent of the State’s budget, but FYCSI makes an immeasurable impact on the lives of the students it helps. While 60% of the general population attends college after high school, only 20% of the 1,200 college-age foster youth in New York do, and less than 3% will go on to graduate. For so many today a college degree is essential to achieving economic independence, an end that FYCSI helps make more attainable for hundreds of students.
FYSA’s advocacy day and the voices of foster youth across New York are critical to assuring FYCSI’s programs continue to provide opportunity to hundreds of students. In joining FYSA in Albany foster youth not only were able to meet with high level government officials, but they had the chance to make their voices heard and shape their future and the future of other foster youth in New York State for years to come.
Ericka Francois, a FYSA Student Ambassador and a junior at SUNY New Paltz, recounted advocacy day as “full of positive attitudes and a positive change. Our goal was accomplished – we let these powerful figures know who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. We let them know who we are as students striving for academic success, where we came from personally and academically versus where we are now, and how we plan to move forward in the future.”
For hundreds of students like Ericka the Foster Youth College Success Initiative is imperative to that plan for the future. In order to attend and eventually graduate from college foster youth must navigate more obstacles than most students ever face, obstacles that leave higher education out of reach for far too many. FYCSI works to counteract this – providing hundreds of students the resources necessary to make college a reality, and opening countless opportunities to foster youth that may otherwise be closed.
Letting elected officialsknow the stories of foster youth – who they are, where they came from, and where they are going – is critical to protecting FYCSI’s funding and providing all youth in New York a fair shot at higher education. No one can better tell these stories than foster youth themselves, and Fostering Youth Success Alliance’s advocacy day could not be successful without young people like Ericka and the hundreds of other college-age foster youth who came to Albany this year to share their stories and ensure that FYCSI continues to help hundreds of students throughout New York.