• Report

At greater risk: California foster youth and the path from high school to college


Frerer, K., Sosenko, L. D., & Henke, R. (2013). At greater risk: California foster youth and the path from high school to college. San Francisco, CA: Stuart Foundation.


Among the most vulnerable Californians, foster children and youth are highly likely to confront such factors associated with school failure as poverty and disability. In addition, these children and youth must cope with the physical or psychological trauma associated with abuse, neglect, and separation from family, friends, and teachers. The effects of this trauma can be compounded by disruptions of old and new relationships as foster youth move through a series of placements, often changing schools as well as homes. Identifying policies and practices that can support foster children and youth not only to complete high school, but also to enroll in and complete postsecondary education credentials is key to these students’ future self-sufficiency and success.

To provide critical information for developing such policies and practices, this report presents groundbreaking analyses of education and child welfare data on high school-aged foster youth in California. Researchers from the Institute for Evidence-Based Change (IEBC) and the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Social Services Research (CSSR) sampled data on approximately 11,300 youth who were in foster care at some point during grades 9–11 from 2002–03 through 2006–07 and for whom California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) data in English-Language arts were available. Their analyses of these historically separate data demonstrate that foster youth graduate from high school, enroll in community college, and persist in community college for a second year at lower rates than not only students in the general population but also other disadvantaged students. This report first profiles the foster youth whose data were analyzed and then presents comparisons of their education outcomes with those of a matched sample of other disadvantaged youth as well as the general population.