Kutztown University and ChildPromise, Inc., Philadelphia, have entered into a four-year agreement to create a Providing Resources and Opportunities to Future Standouts (PROFS) program to assist young adults who age out of the foster care system. PROFS provides college access programs, such as college prep and financial literacy workshops for high school students in the foster care system and also retention programs for KU students transitioning from the foster care system. Retention programs for KU students include academic and personal coaching, financial literacy workshops, and peer mentoring services. PROFS students will also be connected to on-campus jobs many of which include work hours over semester breaks, as year round housing for students will be provided as well. Additional opportunities include funding for study abroad and cultural trips to places such as DC, NYC and Philadelphia. PROFS will be staffed by KU staff and graduate assistants who will meet regularly with all PROFS students to support academic performance and success.
“Many higher education programs exist to provide access to a college education for foster care students,” said Dr. Warren Hilton, vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Kutztown University. “The PROFS is unique in that it focuses in on retaining and graduating foster care students from college. The support from ChildPromise will help students achieve their goal of obtaining a college degree and pursuing their chosen career path.” ChildPromise has approved more than $59,000 in funding for the first year of the program and nearly a half million dollars by the end of the agreement in August 2021. KU hopes to have more than 50 students enrolled in the program over the next four years. ChildPromise, Inc., has been providing care for orphans, children and youth since 1879 when it was founded as the Baptist Orphanage of Philadelphia.
“We are honored to partner with Kutztown University to develop the PROFS program,” said Dr. Nathaniel Williams, president and CEO of ChildPromise. “Enabling current and former foster children to attain higher education is vitally important to aid them in reaching their fullest potential and overcoming perceived barriers. We look forward to a long-term relationship with Kutztown University.”
Of the more than 20,000 youth aging out of the foster care system nationally each year, 1100 age out in Pennsylvania. As noted by the Pennsylvania State Resource Family Associate, “one in four Pa. youth who ‘age out’ of the system, experience homelessness, struggle with mental health challenges such as depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders, with nearly 1 in 4 youth having been arrested since leaving care.” Additionally, “Nearly half of Pa. foster care youth haven’t found a job four years after leaving the system and struggle to pay bills.”
Typically, individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn an additional $1M in lifetime earnings than those who don’t have a bachelor’s degree. Health outcomes are better and the incarceration rate is lower for bachelor’s level citizens. These facts provide proof that more assistance is needed to guide foster care youth towards college completion. Providing opportunities for postsecondary education completion for foster care youth aging out of the system would solve many of the problems highlighted above.
“Coming from a place where I was told I’d accomplish nothing, I personally feel the PROFS program will help me succeed by providing me a tremendous amount of support while going through the difficult transition to college,” said Lillian Crossley, a KU freshman from Northumberland County. “I’m grateful to have been chosen for such an outstanding program.”