LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 19, 2019) — While the current overall employment landscape has recently improved, opportunities for young adults transitioning from foster care remains a challenge. Research shows that foster youth and alumni of foster care have higher unemployment rates, are more likely to experience employment insecurity and tend to earn lower wages when compared to their peers. Cynthia, a former foster youth who aged out of the system, knows about these struggles all too well.
“It’s really hard for foster youth to find and keep a job,” Cynthia said. “A lot of foster youth, no matter how prepared they are, struggle with the transition into adulthood, which includes going out and finding a good job.”
In response, Kentucky's Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) partnered with the College of Social Work's Training Resource Center to implement its 2018 Fostering Success program. Originally launched in 2016, the program is a key initiative of Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration.
Fostering Success is a 10-week hybrid employment training program. Participants receive job training and mentorship, which occurs concurrent to a job placement. Upon completion, participants may continue employment placements and/or enter an array of vocational training programs. After piloting this initiative in 2016 and 2017, Fostering Success was expanded to offer more comprehensive employment education and services to foster youth and alumni throughout the state.
Jay Miller, associate dean for research and associate professor in the College of Social Work, is the lead investigator on the project. Allison Gibson and Missy Segress are co-investigators on the project. Miller, who spent time in foster care as a youth, currently oversees a number of foster care research and programmatic initiatives.
“The research is very clear that youth in and from foster care have a difficult time obtaining and maintaining stable employment," Miller explained. “A new report demonstrates that Kentucky is making great strides in positively impacting employment-related outcomes for foster youth and alumni across the Commonwealth.”
The report, which was released last month, detailed statistically significant improvements for Fostering Success participants across several core employment domains including job readiness, vocational self-efficacy, and ability to overcome and cope with employment related struggles. Additionally, data indicated that participants were able to significantly expand their professional networks, which can be a crucial element for youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood. Ultimately, findings outlined in the report suggest an increased ability to obtain and maintain viable employment as a result of participating in the program.
Commissioner Eric Clark, appointed by Gov. Bevin to lead DCBS in 2018, is excited about the report. “We are ecstatic to see these positive outcomes,” Clark continued. “DCBS is committed to providing Kentucky’s youth and families with evidenced-informed, cutting-edge services. This new report is a testament to the hard work of our staff and our inimitable partnership with UK.”
Cynthia, who has participated in Fostering Success since its inception, credits the program with making a positive impact in her life. “Fostering Success is really helpful to young people like me. I will be able to use what I have learned to help myself and others."
Despite the positive findings outlined in the report, there's more work to be done. “While it is important that we celebrate the impact that Fostering Success is having on our foster youth and alumni, it is imperative that we continue to examine how to continue to provide high quality services to this population,” Clark explained.
“As long as foster youth and alumni face employment challenges, our efforts will persist,” Miller added.
Fostering Success is slated to enroll the 2019 cohort later this spring.