First Star UCLA Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy
Less than 3% of Foster Youth go on to earn a Bachelors Degree, despite the fact that it is their best ladder out of awful childhoods of abuse or neglect. We request your support in dramatically improving the statistic. Please support the First Star UCLA Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy, our scalable college prep program for foster youth, that provides a 4-5 week summer residential component, monthly follow-up meetings, and additional online and other full-year enablements. With a comprehensive focus on education, psychosocial functioning and self-sufficiency, the Academy program offers transformative tools and support throughout high school, so that these youth enter and succeed in college and beyond. Our Foster Youth Academies, now operating in Los Angeles, CA, Rhode Island and the greater Washington, DC area, are inspiring, challenging and equipping foster youth in grades 8 through 10 for success in college and beyond. Students who remain in good standing are invited to continue in the Academy program – summer residential sessions, monthly workshop days, and our protected students’ social media site – each year through high school graduation. With the enthusiastic support of local public-private partnerships, including child welfare agencies and public schools, we have launched these three Academies in two years. To launch and operate Academies around the country, additional public-private partnerships are at work at six additional campuses across the nation.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
Our series of groundbreaking Report Cards – which measure and compare how each state provides protection to maltreated children within the framework of its state law – have educated untold numbers of Americans about essential legislative, legal and policy developments. They have become the gold standard arbiter of policy and legislation and now greatly influence lawmakers, the judiciary and CPS agencies on a running basis. Over time have seen states’ grades improve, showing that the Report Cards are fueling state-level improvements. The Children’s Advocacy Institute, Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law is a treasured partner in developing and disseminating the Report Cards nationwide.
We convene Congressional Forums, held in the U.S. Capitol, where lawmakers and their staffs are invited to learn about the latest Report Cards and to dialogue with experts in the field on child abuse, dependency courts, foster care, and child protective services. The discussions provide guidance and feedback on pertinent policy areas. They also provide a rare opportunity for youth who have experienced Foster Care to speak directly to government, face to face.
Our Foster Youth Academies, now operating in Los Angeles, CA, Rhode Island and the greater Washington, DC area, are inspiring, challenging and equipping foster youth in grades 8 through 10 for success in college and beyond. Students who remain in good standing are invited to continue in the Academy program – summer residential sessions, monthly workshop days, and our protected students’ social media site – each year through high school graduation. With the enthusiastic support of local public-private partnerships, including child welfare agencies and public schools, we have launched these three Academies in two years. To launch and operate Academies around the ￼country, additional public-private partnerships are at work at six additional campuses across the nation.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
UCLA, our University partner, is intimately involved in design and implementation of the program and has been since its inception. First Star and UCLA work together to develop curriculum, identify educators, course selection etc. The program’s formal evaluation team comes from the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, and they have been instrumental in developing the logic model for the program.
We've also collaborated with the Department of Children and Family Services, the LA County Board of Supervisors, the Alliance for Children's Rights, United Friends of the Children and the Bruin Guardian Scholars for participant recruitment, county support, legal assistance, tutoring and peer counselor support respectively.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Indicators for education outcomes include: 1) high school grade point averages from one high school semester to the next, 2) successful completion of appropriate high school courses and examinations, 3) improved knowledge of the processes for entering post-secondary education, 4) an understanding of the linkage between education and success, 5), development of a commitment to learning, 6) development of career awareness, interests, and aptitudes, 7) investigation and analysis of different career paths to inform future decision-making, and 8) development of job search, application, and interviewing skills.
Indicators for psychosocial functioning outcomes include students’ development and demonstrated use of: 1) negotiation and persuasion skills, 2) mentor relationships, 3) positive peer-to-peer relationships, 4) positive adult-youth relationships, 5) social supports, 6) external supports, 7) understanding and appreciation of diversity, 8) commitment to service and advocacy, 9) self-awareness, including self-reflection, 10) self-esteem, and 11) emotional self-regulation skills.
Indicators for self-sufficiency outcomes include students’ development of: 1) problem- solving skills, including adaptability to life transitions, 2) self-advocacy skills, 3) the ability to use time constructively, 4) life skills, including financial literacy, resource management, the ability to identify transitional living opportunities, and emancipation, and 5) healthy habits, such as engaging in health promoting activities (e.g., hygiene, healthy diet, disease prevention).
We track and monitor all indicators of progress with the assistance of the Social Research Methodology Evaluation Group (an independent evaluation team affiliated with UCLA). The SRM Evaluation Group has implemented a mixed methods approach with both quantitative and qualitative data collected from students’ public school records and report cards, surveys, regular interviews, focus groups, observations, and social service agency case files. Data is collected, analyzed, and reported throughout the program, generally during three periods – the fall and spring semesters of each academic year and in the summer, during the on-campus, residential immersion component. Our results will inform programming for the next year of operations (summer on-campus immersion and monthly follow-up meetings until the students graduate from high school. In addition, our progress, challenges and lessons learned are informing the implementation of other First Star Foster Youth Academies around the country (those already operating in Rhode Island and the Washington, DC area and others in development).
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
Our project will benefit Los Angeles by addressing the abysmal educational outcomes for the foster youth population of Los Angeles, the largest in the nation.
Current outcomes for foster youth in Los Angeles are dismal. After leaving foster care, approximately 64 percent of young men experience incarceration , and approximately 60 percent of young women become pregnant by age 20 , and 24 percent of these young people will have experienced homelessness , creating a repetitive generational cycle of chaos, poverty and poor outcomes that are expensive in both human and fiscal terms. Of the approximately 5,200 youth who age out of foster care every year in California, the cost to the state, counties and cities is estimated to be over $165MM per year for those that are incarcerated, become homeless, and/or pregnant. See Appendix V.
On average in Los Angeles County, only 50 percent of foster youth graduate from high school , far underperforming the average of 70 percent among youth not involved in the foster care system . Furthermore, only 3 percent graduate 2 or 4 year college , even though over 70 percent express a desire to participate in higher education. A study of dropouts by UCSB calculates that for each youth that drops out of high school in California, the economic loss over their lifetime is estimated to be $386,666 per youth.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
In the year 2050 we hope to have changed the face of foster education in this nation.
We hope to have First Star Academies operating on university campuses across the nation. When a University President is asked what they do at their University they will have a three pronged answer; 1) educate undergraduates and graduate students 2) conduct research 3) do our part to ensure the nations foster youth are able to gain admission to and obtain a college education.