Foster Youth Achievement Program

Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Foster Youth Achievement Program, which focuses on foster youth school attendance, educational achievement and social-emotional well-being, is being restructured.

The district is combining five specialized student programs together — including the Foster Youth Achievement Program and the Homeless Education Program — which officials say will streamline counseling services for LAUSD’s highest-need pupils by placing counselors at specific school sites, cutting down on travel time typically spent driving to schools across the district.

District officials insist that intensive care for LAUSD’s nearly 8,700 foster youth is not changing, though the program will no longer have its own designated counselors come August.

Solano Community College students A'ryan Jayne, left, and Jerry Reyes, who are both in the school's Foster Youth Success Initiative/Empowerment Strategies for Success – Independent Living Program, talk with program counselor and coordinator Kamber Sta. Maria while getting help with a job application. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

What the new model looks like

The district is blending five separate programs — the Foster Youth Achievement ProgramHomeless Education ProgramGroup Home Scholars ProgramJuvenile Hall/Camp Returnee Program and Attendance Improvement Program — into a single “specialized” program.

That means counselors across those district-wide programs will now be pooled together and placed into local school networks, where they’ll serve the cumulative needs of foster youth, homeless students and students who have gone through the juvenile justice system.

According to district officials, the new model will have:

  • 150 masters-level counselors “out in the field” serving ~29,056 students

- 8,668 students in the Foster Youth Achievement Program,

- 19,526 in the Homeless Education Program,

- 811 in the Group Home Scholars Program and

- 1,048 in the Juvenile Hall/Camp Returnee Program

Some students are double counted in the data if they’re enrolled in more than one of the programs. The 29,056 students is the unduplicated count. The numbers fluctuate and are based on the current enrollment.

in 2017-2018, comparatively, the Foster Youth Achievement Program had about 80 counselors assigned to schools, according to the district.  The Homeless Education Program serves students in various housing scenarios who don’t all require intensive levels of care, had 19 counselors with no specific student caseloads in 2018-19.

A few goals of the restructuring to “reduce duplication of services” — which can happen when a student is enrolled in various programs that all have different counselors — and to “maximize the staff relationship with students in schools.”

LAUSD is moving away from a model where a principal may have four or five counselors coming on campus to work with specific children, to really having this one person attending to their needs. According to district officials, this streamlining, will include placing one counselor with students from the same family.

These counselors will also track their assigned students’ attendance using a new data integration system.

Foster Youth with Counselor2

Program Funding is Unchanged

Although the programs are being combined, funding for each remains the same. The Foster Youth Achievement Program is budgeted at about $15 million for the 2019-20 year.  Some staff, such as those working with “high-end homeless populations for emergency services,” will remain in their roles separately.

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Mandated Reporting

Foster achievement reporting is now mandated under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in 2015. L.A. Unified will also start producing reports that include the number of district students in foster care, how often they change schools and how they are doing academically, socially and emotionally after the 2019-20 year.

How we can help...

Check out LifePrep Academy's educational resources for foster, homeless, juvenile justice and other transition age youth. This guide is designed to connect busy counselors to resources and support services while providing opportunities to connect with their students in meaningful ways.