Educational Supports for Youth in Foster Care - District of Columbia

Date: April 2020

Support for Completing High School

Citation: CFSA Educ. Serv. Pol., Proc. D, E, F, J

It is the policy of the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) to ensure that all children in its care and/or custody have access to an educational program that is appropriate to the child's age and abilities and is designed to meet his or her unique needs and suitably prepare him or her for additional education, future employment, self-sufficiency, and independent living.

All in-home and out-of-home caseworkers shall ensure that all children and youth in foster care between ages 5 to 18 are enrolled in school or an educational program. A child who is receiving special education services is entitled to these services until age 21.

To the greatest extent possible, all social workers shall ensure that children maintain regular school attendance by communicating to birth and resource parents the importance of school attendance and the seriousness of educational neglect.

CFSA caseworkers are dedicated to comprehensive case planning, including provision of educational services for all children and youth served by the agency. Caseworkers will review educational performance for children on an ongoing basis to ensure maximized use of quality educational services and performance. One way the agency addresses educational performance is by means of an education/vocation assessment tool to obtain essential information on a child's educational needs and progress.

Tutoring may be provided for children or youth involved with CFSA who have academic needs or difficulties. Tutoring is intended to be a time-limited, goal-focused, objective-driven academic support service for school-aged children and youth in foster care.

Planning for Postsecondary Education

Citation: CFSA Educ. Serv. Pol., Proc. K, L, M

The Office of Youth Empowerment (OYE) staff will provide assistance to youth who are interested in pursuing enrollment in postsecondary education (i.e., college or university) or a vocational training program. The caseworker shall refer all youth age 15 and a half or older to the OYE to discuss individual transitional independent-living plans and to prepare and plan for postsecondary education or vocational training, which typically begins during the last quarter of the youth's junior year in high school.

Youth in out-of-home placements interested in attending a college or university shall enroll in the OYE's precollege services program. The precollege services program consists of a college preparation curriculum that includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • Various types of higher education options
  • The college search process
  • A review of college entrance requirements, admissions, and financial aid processes
  • College-related life skills training, including budgeting, living with a roommate, time management, and alcohol/drug use on college campuses

Upon receiving the youth's registration, the OYE educational specialist shall send the youth a letter confirming placement in precollege services and advising the youth of group activities and other information, including the mandatory precollege services orientation meeting. The mandatory orientation meeting shall inform the youth of the complete schedule of program activities and associated deadlines, including those for standardized testing and financial assistance programs.

To the extent that funds are available, each youth shall participate in a group college tour or an individual college visit. If the youth is not able to participate, he/she will always have the option to meet with the educational specialist on an individual basis.

Individual OYE consultations shall be provided to youth, as needed. The subjects that may be addressed in individual consultation include the following:

  • Review of financial award letters with youth, as well as the Student Aid Report (SAR) to ensure accuracy
  • Freshman year course selection
  • Understanding the college's credit system
  • College correspondence

To the extent that funds are available, CFSA shall provide the following fee payments to a youth participating in precollege services:

  • Up to $1,000 per youth for a summer session program that is required by an institute of higher education as a condition for admission
  • Up to $200 per youth for a summer orientation program at the college the youth will be attending
  • Application cost for up to three institutions of higher education, after the youth has sought application fee waivers

OYE also shall provide the following assistance to assess the youth's vocational options:

  • Identifying different types of vocations appropriate to the youth's skills, talents, and interests
  • Factors to consider in selecting a vocational school or institution, including geography, population, price, and length of curriculum
  • Vocational school entrance requirements and admission process
  • The financial aid process (including grants and scholarships)
  • Applying for the Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program
  • Visiting vocational schools (to the extent that funds are available, youth may participate in a group vocational school tour)

All youth shall receive an individual OYE consultation to address one or more of the following subjects:

  • Reviewing financial award letters with the youth as well as the SAR to ensure accuracy
  • Understanding the vocational school's credit system
  • Vocational school correspondence

If there is an application cost to the vocational services program, CFSA will pay up to three institutions of higher education after the youth has sought application fee waivers.

Eligibility Requirements

Citation: CFSA Educ. Serv. Pol., Proc. L, M; CFSA Admin. Iss. # CFSA-06-9

Youth must fulfill the following eligibility requirements to receive precollege services:

  • Be enrolled in OYE services
  • Register for precollege services no later than August 31, unless recently committed
  • Have demonstrated the desire to pursue postsecondary education
  • Meet one of the following criteria:
    • Is enrolled in the last quarter of the junior year of high school
    • Is actively pursuing a general educational development (GED) diploma
    • Has earned a GED or high school diploma

In addition to the eligibility requirements listed above, the youth must provide the following information to the OYE prior to the August 31 deadline:

  • Final grades for the junior year of high school or copy of the high school diploma or GED certificate, whichever is applicable
  • If the youth is in high school, the senior year class schedule
  • Standardized testing scores, if available
  • An ETV application

In order to maintain participation in precollege services, a youth must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Remain enrolled and participate in OYE, who supports the youth through this process and collaborates with the team (caseworker, caregiver, mentor, etc.) that is already in place
  • Participate in the college preparation curriculum, including attending weekly group or individual sessions
  • Attend standardized testing preparation classes, take the test, and provide test scores upon receipt
  • Identify colleges to which to apply
  • Complete college applications and supporting documents and submit completed applications to selected institutions

OYE staff shall assist with enrollment in vocational training when a youth fulfills the following criteria:

  • Enrolls and actively participates in OYE services
  • Demonstrates interest in pursuing vocational education
  • Meets one of the following criteria:
    • Is age 18 or older
    • Is pursuing a GED or is a senior in high school
    • Has a GED or high school diploma
    • Participates in the Department of Employment Services job readiness program, including attending weekly group or individual sessions

The ETV program is available to the following youth:

  • For youth ages 18 to 21, the following criteria applies:
    • Has U.S. citizenship or legal residency
    • Was placed in out-of-home care at age 15 or older or adopted after age 16
    • Has a high school diploma or equivalent or a GED
    • Enrolled in a postsecondary school or training program as a full-time or part-time student
    • Has submitted an application to the postsecondary school or training program for financial aid
    • Initiated the postsecondary education or training before reaching age 21
    • Has maintained satisfactory academic progress (i.e., at least a cumulative grade-point average of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale) or academic standing consistent with the institution's graduation requirements for the Federal student financial aid program
  • Youth aged 21 to 23 must fulfill both of the following eligibility criteria:
    • Meet all eligibility requirements for youth ages 18 to 21 (above)
    • Be participating in the voucher program on the date they reach age 21 in order to be eligible to receive assistance until reaching the age of 23 years old, as long as they are enrolled in a postsecondary education or training program and are making satisfactory progress toward completion of that program
  • Adopted youth must be adopted from the District of Columbia's foster care system after age 16 and meet the same eligibility requirements for youth in foster care who would have been otherwise eligible for services under the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP).

Financial Supports for Postsecondary Programs

Citation: CFSA Admin. Iss. # CFSA-06-9

Through the CFCIP, the Federal Government provides funds to States, including the District of Columbia, to assist youth in receiving postsecondary education and training. The purpose of the ETV program is to help youth exiting out of foster care make the transition to self-sufficiency and receive the education, training, and services necessary to obtain employment.

The ETV program is the only program through which CFSA will provide funds for postsecondary education for youth currently or formerly in foster care.

ETVs can be applied toward the cost of attendance at an institution of higher education, including, but not limited to, colleges, universities, community colleges, and training institutions. An ETV voucher cannot exceed the total cost of attendance at a postsecondary school or program. It may be received more than once, but the youth must reapply each academic year. ETVs will be distributed in order of application on a first-come, first-served basis, until the ETV funds are exhausted.

The ETV program provides an eligible youth with financial assistance in the form of a voucher for up to $5,000 per academic year. ETV funds are provided only after all other forms of financial aid have been utilized. The total amount provided may not exceed the cost of attendance at the youth's institution of higher education. Youth are responsible for all other expenses after the $5,000 cap.

ETVs can be used for the cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, books, room and board, supplies, transportation costs, computers, dependent allowance, disability allowance, cooperative education allowance, and loan fees.