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 Outcomes:

Number of students earning awards at Virginia’s Community Colleges: 869 students
Number of students transferred to other colleges/universities: 608 students
Number of credit awards earned: 635
Number of non-credit awards earned: 377
Number of awards earned at other colleges/universities: 241

Benefit to the Commonwealth: Great Expectations saves $5.4 million annually
in estimated social and economic costs to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

• Over 1,253 degrees, diplomas, or certificates have been awarded to 869 students from Virginia’s Community Colleges and other colleges and universities since Great Expectations’ inception.

• More than 30% of all eligible young people who have experienced foster care receive services through Great Expectations.