Which Funders are Helping Foster Youth Age Out Successfully?

Aging out of foster care can be a difficult process. With little community support, former foster kids are more at risk for homelessness, arrest and incarceration, and failure to graduate from college.

The process can go well when there is adequate community support, but that is not often the case for former foster youth. With average income of only $470 a month, and statistically high unemployment, this is a population of individuals who can use all the help they can get. Many foundations recognize the role that philanthropy can play in creating better outcomes for these vulnerable youth, and are funding programs and projects in diverse ways. Let’s look at some of the funders who are working to support this process and give kids aging out of foster care the same kinds of opportunities that other kids get.

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The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is worth watching closely in the next few years on this front, as they are funding what looks like some of the most innovative work for foster youth out there. In 2015, Hilton made a grant of $750,ooo to iFoster, for the purpose of continuing to deliver resources through the online Transition Age Youth Assistant, which provides linkages to careers and college through a digital locker for foster youth.

Hilton also made two large grants in 2013 specifically for transition-age foster youth: $1.5 million to St. Anne’s Maternity Home in Los Angeles, for its Transition Age Youth (TAY) Collaborative, which implements a workforce development curriculum for foster youth in Los Angeles. Another large grant of $1.3 million went to The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, a part of the Aspen Institute, which used the money “to enact systems improvement and alignment in Los Angeles County and New York City and achieve better outcomes for transition-age youth.”

Of the many funders out there supporting the process for kids aging out of foster care, by far the biggest and most longstanding support comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), which funds numerous initiatives and programs across the country. AECF also created the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative in 2001, and gave a total of over $20.7 million dollars between 2005 and 2008 to support its programming for youth transitioning out of foster care.

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative receives substantial support from the W.K.Kellogg Foundation, the Sherwood Foundation, and a large network of local and regional foundations. Kresge has also been a significant recent funder for the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, providing a $750,000 grant in 2013 for capacity-building and technical assistance.

One program receiving significant foundation funding in this arena in recent years is First Place for Youth in Oakland, Calif., which serves kids aging out of foster care by providing help with access to housing, employment and education. This program received $750,000 in 2014 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the purpose of supporting the expansion of its model outside of California and to further evaluate and build evidence for the model’s impact. Another big supporter of First Place for Youth in 2014 was the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which provided a $600,000 grant for the purpose of improving its “intensive case management around employment, education, and parenting outcomes for foster youth in Los Angeles.”

A third major funder of First Place for Youth is the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, which gave the nonprofit a $1 million grant in 2013 for the purpose of evaluating, sustaining, and refining its programs. Since 2008, Clark has donated a total of $4.65 million to First Place for Youth.

And finally, the Kresge Foundation has provided significant support to First Place for Youth, with a $300,000 grant in 2013 for general operating support. The San Francisco Foundation, the East Bay Community Foundation, and the California Foundation are among a long roster of community foundations making repeat grants to First Place for Youth. In the corporate foundation realm, Bank of America Foundation, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation and the Wells Fargo Foundation have all provided support for this nonprofit.

Youth Villages is another major nonprofit in this arena that received one of the largest grants ever given to a social service agency. The Memphis-based organization provides an array of child welfare services to children in 13 states and Washington, D.C. In 2011, Youth Villages received a grant of $42 million fromWalden Family Services Foundation to expand transitional living services for youth aging out of foster care. Other major funders for Youth Villages include the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation , and the Kresge Foundation.

The Surdna Foundation has supported some innovative programming for youth transitioning out of foster care. In 2013, Surdna gave the Walden Family Services Foundation in San Diego a grant for $125,000 for the purpose of developing “Youth Advocates among former foster youth, ages 21-27, who will present the Transitions Framework to groups of foster youth, parents, and community partners.” In 2013, Surdna also gave a grant in the amount of $160,000 to New Transitions of Madison, Tenn., in order to “expand the number of foster youth served, support sustainable growth of the organization, and test an improved set of outcome indicators for the program.”

One more organization that receives a wide range of foundation grants to serve youth aging out of foster care is Foster Care to Success, which is the oldest and largest nonprofit working specifically with foster youth who are college-bound. The nonprofit provides scholarships and stipends for books and other resources, as well academic coaches and personal mentors. One of its largest funders has been Casey Family Programs of Seattle, Washington, which has provided more than $13 million for scholarships for former foster youth since 2000.

An important collaborative in this arena is the Youth Transitions Funders Group (YTFG). Founded to bring better networking and collaboration to funding for vulnerable youth, this collaborative released a paper in 2013 called, “Big Wins, Small Foundations: A Guide to Making Smart Choices about Grantmaking for Vulnerable Youth,” which helps identify the “attributes of successful youth transition grantmaking” and may be useful for grantseekers to review in order to formulate a successful proposal. Members of the Youth Transitions Funders Group included the Open Society Institute, the Lumina Foundation, and the Tow Foundation, among a longer list of members provided here.

YTFG has funded the Youth Transitions Task Force, a project of the the Boston Private Industry Council, in an effort to address issues with student dropout. The Charles Steward Mott Foundation has been instrumental in funding the Youth Transitions Task Force for several years now, with a total of $950,000 in funding since 2007.

Southern California Grantmakers, a leadership association based in Los Angeles, appears to be ahead of the curve on this issue, having formed its own foster care funders collaborative that works on an array of issues including helping kids aging out of foster care. News, updates, and resources from this group are available here.

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About Kiersten Marek 22 Articles
Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is a clinical social worker in Rhode Island, and a Senior Editor for Los Angeles-based Inside Philanthropy, where she writes about economic and social philanthropy. Kiersten is also the author of Know Thyself: A Kid's Guide to the Archetypes, an identity development workbook.