After identifying a statewide need for support services for foster youth, the Foster Youth Success Initiative (FYSI) was created in 2006 through a collaboration between the California Community College Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO), the Foundation for California Community Colleges and numerous partners and stakeholders.
Though modeled under various names on different campuses, such as Guardian Scholars and Renaissance Scholars, all the support programs afforded by the creation of FYSI aim to stimulate success, improve health, and provide access to resources for current and former foster youth navigating higher education.
Each of the 113 California community college campuses have at least one FYSI liaison who is specially trained to assist with the unique struggles and needs of foster youth and whose purpose is to be the primary point of contact for the youth. Some campuses have as many as two or three liaisons and have been placed in various departments like EOPS, financial aid and others.
According to Jessica Smith, the statewide liaison for FYSI, the “network of support” provided by FYSI includes assistance with academic needs, financial aid, physical and mental health, both on-campus support and community resources, and the promotion of a healthy community.
Given that the names of foster youth support programs varies across campuses, the College Pathways website (cacollegepathways.org) is an important and resourceful tool for locating such programs and learning what distinctive services each may offer. For example, programs such as Cooperative Agencies Foster Youth Educational Support (CAFYES), whose name will soon be changed to Next Up, will assist youth with funds for books and supplies, as well as providing them with additional aid in the form of gas cards, bus passes, and meal cards.
It is important to note as well that support programs may differ depending on the type of institution, as the needs of a student will change from attending community college to a four-year campus. For instance, housing needs may change when youth attend universities. A new law for Cal-State colleges requires that housing remain open during semester breaks and must be provided to foster youth at no additional costs (though summer is not covered).
Considered to be critical to foster youth’s success in higher education, FYSI stresses the importance of self-care and what that may look like depending on the student. Aspects of self-care can include making use of emotional support and counseling and addressing disabilities, which are not always physical and can manifest by way of anxiety disorders, PTSD, etc.
Presenter and Dean of Student Success at Pierce College, Kalynda Webber McLean, Ed.D. said, “[Foster youth] may need more immediate responses to their physical and mental healthcare needs and the college health centers provide that.”
College health centers, Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS), foster youth programs, and participation in student clubs and organizations can be essential to a student’s self-care practices.
For more information on FYSI and key resources for foster youth attending college, please visit California College Pathways here.