Statewide Expansion for Washington Program to Boost Graduation Rates of Foster Youth

Seattle-based nonprofit Treehouse is planning to scale up its program to boost the high school graduation rates of foster youth in Washington over the next five years.

Thomas Jefferson High School graduate Jafet with Treehouse Senior Education Specialist Abby Trimble. Photo credit: Treehouse

Treehouse’s Graduation Success program matches “education specialists” with foster youth in high schools. Based at the schools, the specialists help youth set goals, monitor the youth’s educational progress and make sure that the foster youth are receiving appropriate services and supports from the state and other nonprofit providers.

Graduation Success is currently available to foster youth in 165 middle and high schools across King County (Seattle), as well as some school districts in Pierce, Spokane and Snohomish Counties.

Last year, Treehouse served 762 students in the Graduation Success program, and hopes to work with about 1,000 by the end of the current school year, according to Trent Freeman, associate director of communications. The planned expansion would bring the program to 2,400 foster youth in all parts of the state by 2022.

The goal of the program is to ensure that foster youth in the state graduate at the same rate as other students who are not part of the foster care system.

A 2015 report from the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction found that the graduation rate for foster youth in the state was about 42 percent. The graduation rate for the Graduation Success is 89 percent, seven percentage points higher than the overall state rate, according to Treehouse.

“We’re very proud of the progress our youth have made so far, but there is much more work to do throughout Washington,” Treehouse CEO Janis Avery said in a press release.

In order to be eligible for services in the program, youth must be living in an out-of-home placement and must have an open child welfare case or be enrolled in a YMCA Young Adult program. Once a youth is accepted, a reunification or other permanency outcome does not disqualify them.

According to Freeman, 20 percent of Treehouse’s funding comes from the state, with the remainder through private funding. He said the organization is banking on more private donations to cover the costs of the expansion.

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Jeremy Loudenback
About Jeremy Loudenback 334 Articles
Jeremy is the child trauma editor for The Chronicle of Social Change.