2023 Grants Challenge

Future in Their Hands: Educational Empowerment for Foster Youth

This project will provide know-your-rights workshops and materials to inform foster youth ages 14-17 of their education rights protected by law. The project will also provide direct legal advocacy to address violations of education rights and to secure robust transition plans that prepare them for adulthood. By providing comprehensive information and demonstrating effective enforcement of education rights, the project will empower foster youth to engage in their education with confidence knowing that their future is in their own hands.


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?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

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

Foster youth ages 14 to 17 are at a pivotal point in their life trajectory. These students require a strong educational foundation and network of support to ease the transition to adulthood. These requirements are not guaranteed for older foster youth, who may experience placement instability and lose their connections to supportive adults. Youth moving between schools can likewise lose supportive education services or accommodations - critical needs for the 30-50% of foster youth with disabilities. Foster youth need guidance and post-education support, but school transition plans are often minimal. Without an effective transition plan or a supportive education environment, students face severe challenges to obtaining employment or post-secondary education and risk experiencing homelessness or incarceration. It is vital to engage foster youth in their education rights as early as possible so they can enact change in their education environment and take control of their early adulthood.

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

Numerous organizations provide training on education rights to adults who work with foster youth, not the youth themselves. While educating foster parents is important, students who lose these advocates are left without agency regarding their education. It is imperative to educate the youth about their rights to increase their confidence and ambition to continue their education. This project will change the way education rights information is disseminated by directly addressing the population whose needs are in question. By increasing foster youth's knowledge of their rights, providing them self-advocacy tools, and demonstrating the power of their education advocacy, this project will provide agency that they lost in the foster care process. To ensure foster youth know their education rights, this project will: -create a handbook on education rights and access issues impacting foster youth; -use LRLC's existing TIGER know-your-rights training program as a model to educate foster youth on their education rights; -provide materials from the handbook as part of workshops, outreach, and intakes for foster youth. To improve their education and demonstrate the power of education rights to foster youth, this project will provide individual direct legal advocacy, including: -identifying education gaps and inadequate transition plans; -outlining next steps for student self-advocacy; -filing due process complaints to secure education program changes and obtain services or assessments.

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

This project has two components: increasing foster youth's understanding of their education rights through resources and training and enforcing foster youth's education rights through direct advocacy. In the short term, improved understanding of their rights will empower foster youth to conduct self-advocacy. Direct advocacy will improve foster youth's education programs, help them meet their education goals, and connect them to additional educational services. In the long term, foster youth served by the project will reap the benefits of improved transition planning and a positive educational experience translating into future economic security. This project will also develop LRLC's connections to foster youth in need of educational advocacy and bolster the network of organizations dedicated to empowering these youth. LRLC will have tangible education rights resources for use in the future and partnerships with referring agencies to better serve foster youth in Los Angeles County.

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

This project is a pilot built atop models LRLC currently uses in its work on behalf of low-income Los Angeles students experiencing education access issues. The organization measures the impact of its programs by tracking quantitative data. LRLC utilizes a client database to track education services secured for students alongside their demographic information. The organization uses this data to determine areas of Los Angeles County and surrounding counties that are underserved, as well as patterns of issues that appear repeatedly within the same school districts. Program databases allow the organization to measure any increase in students served, the languages of families served, and the location of new program participants. LRLC also tracks outreach to community members and participants in its training program. This project will adopt the same measures of success, seeking to provide training to 30 foster youth, direct advocacy to 20 foster youth, and outreach to 100 foster youth.

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

Direct Impact: 50

Indirect Impact: 100