The Embark Mission: The Embark Georgia statewide network serves post-secondary professionals and institutions to ensure connectivity, share best practices, and provide information exchange among youth, community based stakeholders, and K-12 educators in support of former foster and homeless youth.Working in partnership is crucial to achieving our goals. Embark works collaboratively with a number of agencies and organizations to improve the educational options for young people who have experienced foster care or homelessness. On our statewide network>partners page, you will find several key partners and their contact information. On the students>student resources page, you will find a number of community partners who work with this same group of students.
Here is a graphic that represents how all of these partners work together:
Consider these numbers:
• 2066 High school age children in foster care (FY 14, according to AFCARS)
• 1696 High school seniors who are homeless (FY 14, according to GADoE)
According to the Northwest Study, youth at age 23 or 24 who have experience foster care are:
• 26% more likely to not be employed
• Have an average annual income of $8000 compared to $18,300 among the comparison group
• Men are are 49% more likely to have been convicted of a crime; women are 26% more likely to have been convicted of a crime
• 8.2% of youth with foster care experience had completed a 2 or 4 year degree compared to 46% of the comparison group
Source: Mark Courtney, et al, Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth: Outcomes at Age 23 and 24, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, 2011. (Comparison group for this study: National Longitudinal Study Of Adolescent Health)
In spite of these outcomes, many youth who have experienced foster care want to continue their education. According to one study, 84% of youth with foster care experience expressed an interest in pursuing a postsecondary education. However, only 20% actually enrolled and far fewer completed a degree.
Source: Fostering Success in Education: National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster Care
What are the barriers that prevent these young people from achieving their postsecondary educational dreams? According the Supporting Success , a framework for “improving higher education outcomes for students in foster care,” developed by John Emerson of Casey Family Programs, there are several situations that may become barriers to pursuing a degree after high school, including:
• They may lack basic information about college
• They may ‘age out’ of foster care and must become financially independent
• They may not have people who have made college a priority for them
In Georgia, Embark was developed with support from the College Access Challenge Grant in 2012. The CACG was based in the University System of Georgia office; the focus of CACG was to increase college access for underrepresented populations in Georgia. In the first year of support from the CACG in Georgia, David Meyers and Lori Tiller from UGA were charged with developing an inventory of campus based support programs in Georgia and traveled to do site visits at several existing programs, including the Seita Scholars program at Western Michigan University, UW Champions at the Unviersity of Washington and Alabama REACH at the University of Alabama. Following the first CACG contract year, Fanning developed a toolkit with information and tips for campuses to reference. In the second year of support from the CACG, direct support efforts began at UGA and the statewide network was born. A conscious decision was made at that time to develop programs for students who have experienced homelessness and those who have experienced foster care, since many of the issues that these students face are similar.
Embark seeks to set the stage for young people who have experienced foster care or homelessness to have increased access to college and a better chance to complete college. As part of this overall goal, we have identified several subgoals:
- To improve mechanisms for understanding how many young people enroll and complete a post-secondary education – there is not currently a good system for understanding the enrollment and graduation rates of these student groups
- To support campus based program leaders and the Designated Points of Contact across Georgia who are providing direct services to students
- To support and improve systems so that students who have experienced foster care or homelessness have greater opportunity to pursue their postsecondary education dreams
- To provide resource and referral information to students on campus at UGA so that they can access existing services
- To maintain a network of interested campus supporters
- To build connections and community through activities and events
Embark Georgia has worked to put together a toolkit of useful information, documents, and resources to help post-secondary professionals, students, adult supporters working with college aged youth, and community partners. THE TOOLKIT IS COMING SOON.