Why it Works

Real Help, Where and When It’s Needed Most

For foster children, the journey through foster care is a search for someone who is willing to invest in their future. For a growing number of Virginia’s foster youth, that search is ending in success – thanks to Great Expectations.

Virginia ranks last nationally in permanent placements for youth who age out of foster care. One in four children who enter Virginia’s foster care system will not find a permanent home before they turn 18.  As a result, approximately 500 young people “age-out” of the system each year, which usually means making it on their own – often with devastating consequences.

The Costs of Disconnection

Aging out of foster care is like stepping off a cliff. One day your basic needs are covered, the next you are on your own. In most cases, you have had little or no preparation for finding an apartment, living on a budget, let alone applying to college or seeking financial aid. These are just a few of the reasons so many young people leaving foster care struggle:

Study of Former Foster Youth in Their Mid-Twenties

  • 54% were unemployed.
  • 31% percent had been homeless or couch surfed since exiting foster care.
  • 80% of young women had been pregnant since leaving foster care, including 32% before age 18.
  • Nearly 60% of young men had been convicted of a crime, and 75% had spent time in jail.
  • 8% had completed a 2- or 4-year degree.

** Source: 2011 http://www.chapinhall.org/sites/default/files/Midwest%20Evaluation_Report_4_10_12.pdf

Great Expectations: A Lifeline to Adulthood

The Great Expectations approach is simple: connect foster youth with an adult coach who is committed to their success at the moment help is most needed.

A Great Expectations coach is typically the only healthy adult role model in a foster youth’s life. Coaches reach out to foster students in high school to begin talking about the future. Together, they explore the young person’s skills, values, and interests, and match them to higher education options. Coaches help with college applications and securing financial aid. Once a student is enrolled, coaches provide the critical “wrap-around” support that teenagers need, including:

  • Advising on curriculum choices
  • Finding mentoring or tutoring
  • Solving transportation and scheduling issues
  • Career planning and job hunting
  • Budgeting and financial planning

Simply stated, coaches provide the essential supporting relationships that normally come from a student’s family. This support becomes the bridge by which students make a healthy and lasting transition into independence.

Expanding Our Reach. Changing Lives

Great Expectations fills a critical and costly gap in the foster care system. The results are found in the growing number of improved lives across the Commonwealth.

Program Growth:

# Students Served – year over year

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
84 182 343 515 706 599 873 1087 1144 1401

# participating colleges – year over year

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
5 7 12 15 16 17 17 18 18 21

# of coaches (part-time vs. full-time)
10 full-time
11 part-time

Student Outcomes:

# of GE students earning 2 year degrees- 163
# of GE students who have earned career studies certificates- 183
# of GE students enrolled in 4 year colleges- 284
# of GE students graduated from 4-year institutions- 42