NYC foster care advocacy and service group asks for $35 million in additional city funding

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On Jan. 25, over 530 participants – including First Deputy Public Advocate Nick E. Smith, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine along with several New York City Councilmembers – attended a virtual meeting hosted by the Fair Futures Coalition to call on New York City to implement a baseline $35 million in the 2023 fiscal year to expand services for youth in and leaving foster care. 

The Fair Futures Coalition is a transformative model of care implemented in all 26 foster care agencies within NYC. The coalition’s goal is to help aid youth ages 11-26 who are currently in foster care or have left the system with career and school help, as well as provide emotional and economic support with the help of one-on-one coaching. With the proposed additional funding, Fair Futures will expand on currently available programs and aid, as well as ensure that every client has access to schooling and housing.

According to Fair Futures, there are approximately 4,000 middle and high school-aged children currently in the NYC foster care system, 85% of whom are Black or Latinx. About 600-700 age out at 21 of the system each year and are faced with innumerable challenges navigating adult life without aid or financial support. Fair Futures aims to change that. 

“We have all faced hardships in the past few years, but nothing can compare to the challenges faced by those young people who are in foster care or have recently exited foster care,” said Damyn Kelly President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of New York. “We know that 20% of youth in care who age out will become homeless, especially as they try to navigate New York’s complicated housing system. Fair Futures provides life coaching and academic support [which] increases school completion rates. It is a leading model in helping to successfully support and prepare foster youth to transition into adulthood.”

Foster youth are disproportionately more likely to be incarcerated and face higher risk of homelessness and unplanned pregnancies. In New York, only about 21% of foster youth who age out finish high school by age 21, compared to 67% nationally and only 12% of NYC foster children will enter college or a vocational program. 

With the proposed $35 million allocated baseline funding, Fair Futures aims to increase their services and support even more young people in or leaving the foster care system. 

“Full funding for Fair Future will help folks who need help the most,” said Councilmember Shaun Abreu of NYS district 7. “21% of our youth who have aged out of foster care have a high school degree, but 94% of Fair Futures clients had high school diplomas. It is not even a question of the impact that Fair Futures is having on young people in and out of foster care.” 

According to a statement released by Fair Futures, of the 186 young people 21 or older who were coached for 90 days or more in 2021 with private funds, 89% completed at least one academic, career or independent living goal, with an average of 3 goals achieved per person. 

Many of the meeting attendees were current foster care children and those who had left the system, all of whom spoke to the benefits of expanding Fair Futures services. 

“My Fair Futures coach means a lot to me,” said former foster care and current Fair Futures client, Elan Sahalon. “He provides me with direction, reassurance and my next steps in approaching my schooling. The main reason I feel that young people affiliated with foster care must have access to Fair Futures support is because these youth lack the proper resources and funding to be successful. I know, because I was one of them.”