The Faces of Foster Care Fight for Their College Future

Paul Larrabee
For Immediate Release:
February 7, 2017


Advocates Seeks to Secure Funding for Three Years of Foster Youth Students

College-age foster youth from across New York are in Albany today to speak to legislators and state officials about the impact the Foster Youth College Success Initiative (FYCSI) is having on approximately 500 students enrolled in more than 70 colleges across the state.  They are urging law makers to continue investing in those  studying at  the University at Buffalo, City College of New York and St. Lawrence University to name a few.    

The program, created in 2015, is aimed at providing academic and financial support for young people currently or previously in the state foster care system, who are often over-looked or under-supported.  It has received strong endorsement from notable figures such as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and key members of the Assembly majority conference, higher education officials, and a coalition of advocates led by the Fostering Youth Success Alliance (FYSA).

Jessica Maxwell, director of the Fostering Youth Success Alliance, said: “The young people with us today are the real faces of foster care – and they are our future.  We are featuring a number of former and current foster youth in our advocacy work to underscore the importance of continuing the program for those who started in 2015 and 2016, while opening the doors of opportunity to those starting college this year.”

Only one in five college-age foster youth ever set foot on a college campus and less than three percent ever graduate.

Advocates are seeking $4.5 million to sustain its current students and expand the program in 2017 for hundreds more. The executive budget recommended only $1.5 million, at that level, funding will fall far short of the required demand. 

Regina Calcaterra is an attorney and author who has not only written about her experience growing up in New York’s foster care system but speaks about the plight of older foster youth nationally.  “Those of us who grew up in the system are well aware that most youth age out of foster care without a parent or safety net,  As a devastating consequence to that stark reality, they often end up on public assistance, homeless or incarcerated. They do not attend college let alone graduate.”

However, change is beginning to happen under FYCSI as youth receive the “parental” help they need to make their college journey easier to navigate.

Assemblymember Ellen Jaffe now chairs the Committee on Children and Families.  “At the heart of the Assembly agenda is the Foster Youth College Success Initiative.  We are seeking $4.5 million for its continuation and expansion.  New York’s 4,000 college-age foster youth are not invisible – they are our kids and they need our support.”

Foster youth often cite the challenges of the college application and financial aid process as a barrier to going to college.  The FYCSI provides resources for housing, transport and academic supplies.

Foster Care Facts

In New York State:

  • 20,000 children and youth are in foster care of which 40 percent are adolescents and young adults (age 14 and above);
  • 4,000 youth are of college-age; and between 3-10 percent  get their degrees;
  • 500 college students are being served through the Foster Youth Success College Initiative at more than 70 New York-based colleges; representing 31 SUNY;  17 CUNY and 23 Independent Colleges and Universities;
  • 60 percent of the general population attends college after high school; nationally, youth in care attend at a rate of approximately 20 percent; and
  • People with a bachelor’s degree in New York earn about twice as much annually as those with only a high school diploma.

The Children’s Aid Society is an independent, nonprofit organization established to serve the children of New York City. Our mission is to help children in poverty to succeed and thrive. We do this by providing comprehensive supports to children and their families in targeted high-needs New York City neighborhoods. Founded in 1853, it is one of the nation’s largest and most innovative non-sectarian agencies, serving New York’s neediest children. Services are provided in community schools, neighborhood centers, health clinics and camps. For additional information, please contact Patrick Egan  at (212) 286-1548 / (718) 551-6603, email