Some 59,0001 youth are in foster care in California. These children, who have experienced or are at very high risk of experiencing abuse or neglect, already face significantly higher economic insecurity and the probability of mental and physical health problems. Now, the dangers, limitations, and fears imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have greatly exacerbated the burdens on this, especially vulnerable population.
Our PFS team is hearing from grantee organizations in our community that area foster youth are sharply feeling the effects of COVID-19 in California. In mid-April, Governor Newsom pledged an additional $42 million to help foster youth in our state. However, these funds will largely go to “at risk families” to prevent more children from entering the system, leaving those already in or transitioning out of foster care in extremely precarious circumstances.
Transition-Aged Foster Youth and the Impacts of C-19
According to Tipping Point, an estimated 4,000 current or former foster youth are considered transition-aged (14-24) in the Bay Area2. For this group, who are transitioning out of the foster care system into adulthood (on average, leaving “home” eight years earlier than non-foster youth), the future can be highly uncertain and perilous. Data tells us that:
- Only 50% of foster youth graduate from high school each year.3
- Up to 50% of foster youth will experience homelessness at some point after leaving the system.4
- 4% of foster youth hold a college degree by age 26, as compared with 36% of the general population.5
- 25% of foster youth will be arrested or incarcerated.6
As the impacts of coronavirus escalate, foster youth now living on their own are being laid-off from their jobs, struggling to find food and pay for rent, coping with isolation, and navigating the instability each day brings. All of these challenges, along with the possible lack of peer and adult relationships, can be especially triggering.
“Across California, transition-age youth are working hard to remain enrolled in college during COVID-19, despite having their classes moved off-site at a moment’s notice and often not having a computer or internet connectivity. We’ve been truly inspired by their commitment to higher education. They fought against the odds to make it to college and now with COVID-19 are fighting to continue to remain enrolled,” explained Amy Lemley, Executive Director of John Burton Advocates for Youth.
Supporting Current & Former Foster Youth
Fortunately, the nonprofit community has reacted swiftly to support current and former foster youth across the Bay Area and beyond. Regional organizations have already spent thousands of hours listening to young people’s concerns, linking them to resources, and helping them feel connected, heard, and supported. PFS clients have also stepped up with emergency response grants to some of these organizations in recent weeks.
Below are some of the programs leading the charge on behalf of older foster youth:
Beyond Emancipation is helping youth maintain their physical safety and mental health, while supporting them to access food, housing, and education. Their coaches are actively reaching students through texting, phone, and video calls. (Alameda County)
First Place for Youth is connecting homeless youth or youth at great risk of homelessness with a safe place to call home, as well as access to cell phones, hot spots, and laptops for online classes. (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Santa Clara & Solano counties)
John Burton Advocates for Youth is working at the state level to advocate for foster youth during the COVID-19 crisis and has already provided 2,565 laptops to foster youth who would otherwise be unable to continue their college studies.
Pivotal launched an emergency assistance fund to provide high school and college students with immediate financial relief to address their basic needs. (San Mateo & Santa Clara counties)
Guardian Scholars and Renaissance Scholars programs at local community and state colleges are helping foster youth as they lose income and employment and are assisting with online education access.
Thankfully, funders have also been spurred to action. As Amy Lemley shared, “many generous individuals and organizations have rallied behind vulnerable [foster youth], contributing over $450,000 in less than a month,” to John Burton Advocate for Youth. We applaud our PFS clients who have already stepped up with emergency response grants to these and other youth-supporting organizations in recent weeks.
If you are interested in learning more about any of these organizations or exploring ways to assist foster youth in our region, please contact Stefani Willis, Senior Program Officer.
5John Burton Advocates for Youth
6First Place for Youth