In his Last Will and Testament, Conrad Hilton requested that his legacy be dedicated “to relieve the suffering, the distressed and the destitute” and shelter children “with the umbrella of charity.” More than three decades later in March 2012, the Board approved Phase I of the Foster Youth Strategic Initiative to support one of the nation’s most challenged yet promising populations of young people: older youth in foster care, ages 16-24, referred to as “transition age youth” or TAY. In the first five years of the Strategic Initiative, the Foundation is implementing its vision to ensure that youth who are aging out of the child welfare system become self-sufficient and thriving adults.
To date, the Foundation has invested $53.5 million in the Strategic Initiative’s first phase of work (2012-2017). With these investments, the Strategic Initiative has partnered with grantees, community partners and other funders to move public child welfare systems and policies away from a one-size-fits-all approach narrowly focused on foster TAY’s safety and basic needs to one that recognizes and reflects the unique potential of older youth to succeed in education, career and life. The Initiative has also helped to form strong local networks of TAY stakeholders that actively communicate and collaborate around common system and policy goals. These partnerships have fostered several encouraging reforms at state and regional levels, including California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR), a groundbreaking effort to reduce the use of residential care and connect more young people to families, and New York City’s Home Away from Home, a citywide initiative to expand the number, quality and capacity of TAY foster caregivers.
The Phase II strategy will build on the momentum achieved during the Initiative’s first five years by staying the course on its vision and continuing to leverage impact with a three-pronged strategy to ensure foster TAY become self-sufficient and thriving adults. In particular, the Initiative will continue its work to ensure that all foster TAY-serving systems recognize and address the critical period adolescence plays in shaping long-term opportunities and outcomes. Achieving this challenging sector-wide shift will be important in sustaining change over time and providing a healthy long-term environment for ongoing advances in research and program models. Phase II will also continue its central focus on creating education and career pathways for foster TAY as the primary gateway to self-sufficiency.