2023 Grants Challenge

CareerX gets foster youth career-ready & self-sufficient

CareerX is a mentorship program that helps foster youth develop life, social and professional skills to be self-sufficient after foster care. Youth aging out of the foster care system are at a clear disadvantage when it comes to higher educational attainment and finding a job that pays a realistic living wage with health benefits. Through CareerX, former foster youth are matched with a career coach to develop the skills, social networks, and confidence they need to enter the workforce and adulthood with greater self sufficiency.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth

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

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

More than half of California's 60,000 foster youth live in Los Angeles County. The average foster youth changes placements 8 times before emancipation, but many move through 20-50 placements before aging out. The trauma of constant instability puts emancipated youth at higher risk for homelessness, incarceration, trafficking, mental and physical health challenges. Transitional-aged youth are at a clear disadvantage when it comes to higher educational attainment and finding a job that pays a realistic living wage. Foster youth without support networks to lean on are sent into the world at 18 or 21 with a trash bag, a list of homeless shelters, and few resources to meet the demands of adulthood. Without proper support, 20% experience homelessness, while only 24% graduate high school, 10% enroll in college, and 3% graduate from college. We believe that system-impacted youth deserve equal access to opportunities to reach their greatest potential.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

The core of our mission is to build a community that foster youth can rely on for support, and to provide opportunities that help them maximize their own potential. We believe that one meaningful connection can have a lasting impact to help foster youth self-actualize and thrive after the system. With our cornerstone program, CareerX, we match former foster youth with a one-on-one trained career coach for 9 months to develop the foundational life skills, social networks, and confidence they need to enter the workforce and adulthood with greater self sufficiency. Coaches meet with mentees each month, using our curriculum with particular emphasis on relationship building, life skills, financial literacy, and career development. This grant will support our program delivery by improving our current matching algorithms in the pairing of foster youth and their coaches. We are aiming to sophisticate the matching process to include pairings based on personality and psychological models to optimize the potential for foster youth and their coaches to create thriving, productive relationships that result in long-term impact. We are planning to build out this technology so that it will be able to serve not only as a centralized platform for matching and live session feedback, but also as a hub for communication between participants, training and learning, job opportunities, and alumni networking.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The connections forged over the course of CareerX spark professional innovation, encourage knowledge exchange, reduce social isolation, and increase resiliency and confidence for both foster youth and volunteer coaches. Not only does this improve the individual lives of foster youth, it will also benefit the Los Angeles community at large given that foster care has historically and traditionally contributed to societal challenges of incarceration, unemployment, mental health costs, and sex trafficking. Program outcomes include: 1) increase in soft and hard skills and core competencies related to career and financial literacy; 2) increase in educational and/or professional attainment; and 3) change in mental health, or increase in hopefulness, toward future prospects and opportunities. Through CareerX, we aim to provide a holistic, transformative experience that empowers Los Angeles foster youth to go from surviving to thriving - from "impossible" to "I'm possible."

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

At the end of each weekly CareerX session, we require that both foster youth and their coaches complete Scorecards, which is how we measure individual understanding of their goals and lesson material, perception of coach effectiveness, and lesson enjoyment. Also, our pre-, mid-, and post-program surveys for foster youth participants are designed to measure overall content retention and program effectiveness, including progress on program outcomes. In our post-program assessment of our 2022 graduates, we found that: 1) Nearly all (94%) found their mentor's impact to be beneficial to their personal and professional lives, 2) 77% of foster youth who were seeking a job reported that they secured employment during the program, 3) 82% expressed satisfaction in their work performance (an increase of 13% from the beginning of the program), 4) 86% saw increased levels of confidence in their ability to achieve their professional goals, and 5) 83% saw improvements in their mental health.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 250

Indirect Impact: 250