Foster Youth College Resources

foster youth college resources

Foster youth want to attend college, but they don’t have the resources to do so. Between their high need for special education services, lack of resources, funds and more, they don’t have the same opportunities as their peers. As of 2021, there were roughly 407,000 children in foster care in the United States, and of that number, about 84 percent wish to achieve a higher education.

However, due to disproportionality in the amount of foster youth that are Black/African American and Native American and Alaska Native relative to population size, it is crucial to understand the underlying reasons behind this. Therefore, we’ve developed an extensive list of resources for foster youth, foster parents, social workers, teachers, administrators, college professionals, and really anyone who comes in contact with this population in hopes that understanding and knowledge will help more foster youth achieve their dream of a higher education.

most foster youth don't get a degree


Foster Youth Internship Program
Students at the undergraduate and graduate levels who were in the foster care system can apply for a seven-week internship in Washington DC through this program.

Foster Club
The Foster Club is a national network that offers free resources and helpful guides as well as emergency support for foster kids of all ages.

In addition to handing out annual awards, this organization believes in talking more about foster care and helping kids find mentors.

Housing Assistance for Youth Who Have Aged Out of Foster Care
This program offers financial assistance for teens and older kids who need help paying for homes once they age out of the system. 

Project Life
Project Life offers a free guide to help anyone who aged out of foster care find a home they can afford and includes links to financial assistance programs. 

Ready to Succeed
Ready to Succeed offers summer internships and other programs to help kids in foster care build a strong foundation for future success. 

Foster Youth Face Extreme Barriers to College. Here is One Program That’s Helping
The Chronicle of Higher Education created this short video to highlight a program that helps foster kids bridge the gap between high school and college.

Can I Receive Federal Student Aid if I Was or Am in Foster Care?
This simple guide looks at whether kids in foster care qualify for financial aid and how they can get help paying for college and using the FAFSA. 

FAFSA for Foster Youth: Everything You Need to Know
Learn more about applying for financial aid through the FAFSA and how to overcome some of the potential issues you might face in this article. 

Student Records Privacy
This page from the U.S. Department of Education goes over some of the questions teens in foster care have about their records and answers each one. 


Foster America
Foster America wants to change the child welfare system through strategies and programs designed to help parents and their children. 

Foster Care to Success
Billed as America’s College Fund for Foster Youth, Foster Care to Success offers both scholarships and grants to help students pay their college costs. 

Foster Care Alumni of America
This huge network features men and women with experience in the foster care system who volunteer with local chapters to help the next generation. 

Project Lemonade
Project Lemonade helps improve the self-esteem of foster care kids through internships and other programs as well as a store with affordable clothing.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation
This foundation runs programs to reduce the number of kids in the system and others dedicated to juvenile justice, equality, and other topics. 

Boystown offers training programs for potential foster parents and hosts events to ensure those children have access to the resources they need. 

A Sense of Home
A Sense of Home accepts financial and product donations it uses to build and design spaces that make foster kids feel at home across the country. 

Foster Love
Launched in 2008, Foster Love offers educational and other resources for foster kids and parents and works with volunteers to improve the lives of kids. 

National Foster Youth Institute
The NFYI wants to change the foster system by helping kids get their voices heard and working with the government to design new initiatives. 

Alliance for Children’s Rights
This alliance offers both educational and legal help for foster parents who want to adopt and foster kids who enter and later age out of the system. 

National Foster Parent Association
Learn how to become a foster parent through the NFPA, which offers a tax guide and other resources designed to make the process easier. 

foster kids want to go to college


National Foster Youth Institute
This article looks at the challenges facing foster youth in going to college and discusses some of the resources that can improve their chances. 

Positive Attributes of Foster Care That Promote Access to Higher Education
Learn about some of the ways the foster care system can increase the chances youths have of going to college and obtaining their degrees. 

Growing Support for Foster Youth in College
Inside Higher Ed released this article to talk about the new programs and methods that help foster youth both reach college and succeed there. 

Life in College After a Life in Foster Care
In this piece from The New York Times, the author of an opinion piece looks at what college means to students after aging out of the foster care system. 

Extra Support Can Make All the Difference for Foster Youth
The author of this piece from The New York Times looks at how getting more support can help foster kids achieve in school and beyond. 

Going to College as a Foster Youth
Turning 18 covers the things foster kids need to know about going to college, such as how to find housing and apply for financial aid. 

College Affordability Challenges Facing Youth with Experience in Foster Care
Anthony Walsh wrote this article to discuss the issues and challenges that students face with getting financial aid after leaving the foster system. 

Promoting College Success for Youth in Foster Care
This journal article collected research to show the best ways to get foster kids prepared for college and how to help them succeed in their classes. 

Empowering Foster Youth in Higher Education
Sherri Raftery created a pilot program that gives foster youth access to college resources, which this article discusses in-depth with her. 

From Foster Care to College
The program designed by Western Michigan University for foster care students is just one of the programs of this type mentioned in this article.

Fostering Higher Education: A Postsecondary Access and Retention Intervention for Youth with Foster Care Experience
The authors of this article focus on the policy shifts that must happen to improve the chances of foster youth getting into college and finding success. 

California’s Students in Foster Care: Challenges and Promising Practices
This article looks at the issues facing California students in foster care and the practices that show the most promise for future success. 

For Foster Care Kids, College is Elusive
In this piece, Teresa Wiltz talks about why college isn’t possible for so many in the foster care system and what society can do to help them. 

College Choice and Enrollment Among Youth Formerly in Foster Care
Several authors worked on this article, which looks at what affects those in foster care when it comes to college, such as their financial costs.

Removing Barriers to Higher Education for Youth in Foster Care
Discover some of the ways schools can help foster youth succeed in college in this article from the ABA that also goes over the challenges they face. 


How One Foster Child is Now Striving in College and Using Her Story to Help Others
Available from Ken 5, this video talks to a young woman who left foster care and found success at college in the hopes of inspiring others. 

Helping Foster Kids Succeed in College
News 4 out of San Antonio ran this short piece on the best ways to help foster kids achieve and succeed when they leave the system and attend college. 

Foster Care to College: A Crisis WE Can Solve
In this Ted Talk, Robert R. Duke talks about how society can solve the major crises that lead to lower college enrollment ranks among foster care youths. 

College for Foster Youth
In less than one minute, this video focuses on how homelessness affects foster care youths and the way it prevents them from going to college. 

Former Foster Child, Mother of Two, Graduates College with PhD
This inspiring video details the story of a woman who left foster care and had two children before focusing on her studies and obtaining a graduate degree. 

Foster Youth: College is for You
California State University created this video to tell foster youth they can succeed in college by talking to others who were once in their shoes. 

Foster Youth and College: How One Student Defied the Odds
Education Week shared this video from PBS that highlights one student who left the foster care system and found success in college. 

From Foster Care to Yale
Watch this Facebook video to hear a success story from a young man who entered the system at the age of five and later graduated from Harvard. 

Beating the Odds: Supporting Youth in Foster Care Going to College
This video from Reach Higher talks to multiple youths who enrolled in college as they talk about the support they received along the way. 

Clearing Hurdles: How Schools Can Foster Student Success
FMC designed this video to discuss the challenges and hurdles facing foster students and what schools can do to help them succeed.

Bridges of Hope: From Foster Care to College
Sabrina Thomas released this Ted Talk as a way to talk about her experiences in foster care and how to build a bridge of hope for others. 

school aged children in foster care have learning difficulties

Financial Help 

States Use Tuition Waivers to Support College Enrollment of Youth in Foster Care
Learn about how some states use tuition waivers to help foster youths pay for the cost of college along with how the waivers work in this article.  

FosterLove offers scholarships for kids in foster care who need help paying for school, which they can use to cover tuition and any other expenses. 

UMPS CARE Charities All-Star College Scholarship
Students can begin applying for this scholarship in February, which hands out more than $60,000 every year to students in need. 

Casey Family Services Alumni Scholarship
Those in foster care who live in select states on the East Coast can apply for funding through this program and get up to $10,000 a year. 

Living Legacy Scholarship
The Living Legacy Scholarship awards $10,000 every year to a student who spent time in the foster care system and/or experienced homelessness. 

Foster Care to Success Scholarships
You can apply for this scholarship designed for those in foster care and receive up to $10,000 based on both your overall need and merit. 

California Tuition Waiver for Current and Former Foster Care Recipients
Designed for California residents, this program provides tuition waivers for current students in foster care and those who were previously in the system. 

NY Excelsior Scholarship
Students who are New York residents can apply for this scholarship, which covers the total tuition costs of attending a public college or university. 

Texas State College Tuition Waiver
Texas offers a program you can read about here that waives tuition costs at public colleges for those in foster care or similar situations. 

Support // College Readiness 

A Promising College-Readiness Model for Youth in Foster Care
Watch this webinar from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to see the ways parents and others can prepare those in foster care for the college experience.  

Educational Supports for Older Youth in Foster Care
This PDF looks at how some states established programs to better prepare teens in foster care for college and their future experiences. 

Readiness for College Engagement Among Students Who Have Aged Out of Foster Care
Read through this study of more than 80 students to see how prepared they felt for college and the problems they faced due to their challenges. 

Increasing College Access: A Look at College Readiness from the Experiences of Foster Youth
In a dissertation from an Indiana University student, you’ll see how ready foster youths felt when they decided to attend college after leaving the system. 

Growing Up in Foster Care: High School and College Prep
Patricia E. Campie uses this piece to talk about the lack of college prep foster youth receive and what it means to grow up in the system. 

The Career and College Readiness Self-Efficacy Inventory and Foster Care Adolescents
Check out the research and case study in this article that discusses why it’s so hard for some in foster care to continue their education. 

How to Prepare Foster Care Adolescents for Post-Secondary Education
Regina Williams talks about the four factors that prepare those in foster care for higher education and how to implement them. 

Fostering Higher Education
This Washington State University program pairs students with an advocate who can help them make the transition to college and achieve success. 

Career and College Readiness Interventions for Foster Care Adolescents
It only takes a few minutes to look over this poster, which goes over some of the interventions designed to prepare adolescents in foster care for college. 

College Students from Foster Care: Is There a Gap Between Academic Aspirations and College Readiness
Watch this webinar to learn more about the gap that exists among students in foster care who want to go to school and how ready they are for college. 

What’s at Stake
Read stories from those who survived foster care and see how you can help this organization, which better prepares those students for their future studies. 

Effects of Customized Counseling Interventions on Career and College Readiness Self-Efficacy of Three Female Foster Care Youth
This piece looks at three young women in foster care and how counseling helped them prepare for the challenges they would face. 

Transitioning from Foster Care & Post-Secondary Education Opportunities
This is a good resource that looks at the networks and programs on college campuses for students from foster care and the opportunities available to them.

Postsecondary Education for Foster Care
Find out about vocational school waivers, financial aid programs, and other resources for students in Washington foster care who want to go to school. 

Marginalized Communities   

NAYA Family Center Foster Care Support
The NAYA Family Center offers support for those in foster care up through the age of 24, which you can read about here on the official site. 

Supports for College-Bound African Americans Formerly in Foster Care: A Qualitative Study of Their Influences on Enrollment in College
In this journal article, you’ll hear from 10 African-American students on what helped them when they left the foster system for college. 

Who Goes to College? Social Capital and Other Predictors of College Enrollment for Foster-Care Youth
Find out what factors influence foster youth and lead to them seeking out college opportunities in this piece from the University of Chicago. 

Persistence, Motivation, and Resilience: Older Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
The Journal of Family Strengths published this article that looks at what motivates African-American foster youths to attend HBCU settings. 

Black Foster Youth Lives Matter
Find out about the experiences black youths have in the foster care system in this piece, which also looks at how their experiences affect them later. 

Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Foster Care
The authors of this piece talked to more than 780 youths in the foster care system to talk about the issues they faced based on their gender and sexuality. 

Are Sexual Minority Youth Overrepresented in Foster Care, Child Welfare, and Out-of-Home Placement? Findings from Nationally Representative Data
This piece did a deep dive into current research to find out whether the reported number of LGBTQ+ youth in the foster care system is accurate. 

Homeless and Foster Youth, Racial Inequity, and Policy Shifts for Systemic Change
Read this short article to find out why so many call for major changes in the foster care system to improve equality and reduce homelessness. 

Educational Trajectories of Youth Formerly in Foster Care who are LGBTQ: Before, During and After Emancipation
From Child Welfare, this article looks at the educational paths former foster care kids who identify as LGBTQ followed after leaving the system. 

Finding the Yellow Brick Road: Bridging the Gap Between African American Foster Care Youth and Higher Education
Chyna Hart wrote this piece to discuss the challenges facing African-American foster kids as they moved from the system to a higher education setting.