Going to college means new supplies, books, computers, and a host of dreams and challenges. For students who have experienced foster care later in life, they may have the opportunity to receive Education and Training Vouchers (ETV) to help cover the cost of education expenses.
Funds can help cover expenses ranging from tuition and housing to transportation and medical care. ETV is a federally funded, state-administered program. In Indiana, Foster Success is the organization that manages ETV and supports students through their college experiences.
“My work has been in partnership with ETV [in Indiana]. What Foster Success has done is look at ETV as a support service and not just a money source,” says Maddy Day.
Day is a site liaison for the Jim Casey Youth Opportunity Initiative (JCYOI). She’s been with the Initiative for 18 months and helps organizations like Foster Success meet new partners, broker resources, and consult on ways to improve.
“Once they saw what Foster Success was doing we realized, ‘Of course that makes sense!’ But they were one of the few places in the country that had support services alongside the financial,” says Day.
For foster youth, that means distinct advantages that allow the money and its impact to go further.
The challenge: telling foster youth they can get ETV, then enabling them to use it to the maximum
In many states, ETV money is treated as a scholarship or grant. Whether it’s administered by a government, a school, or a nonprofit organization, the money is awarded based purely through a transactional relationship. The student applies. If the student is eligible, they are awarded the funds.
“The way the federal government set it up was to be a scholarship,” says Day. “But to use ETV as a skills development and sustainable way of supporting post-secondary education is really innovative.”— Maddy Day
It’s challenging to reach foster youth and to get them to apply to ETV. Many don’t even know it is available for them. But even if they do apply and are awarded money, which can be up to $5,000 a year, what next? Is there a way to maximize its impact? Do they have a goal in mind?
“Yes, money is important, but the reality is we know money needs legs. And those legs are the people coming along with students thinking about setting goals, money management, and doing a coaching-oriented approach to this resource. Indiana has been absolutely transformational.”
These challenges don’t stop with ETV funds and financial literacy, however. Students who have experienced foster care struggle to stay in school, or get into a college at all — often because they perceive they’re somehow less valuable or not worthy. Foster Success rejects that notion.
The solution: education and partnerships at every step
First, Foster Success’ work advocating for reporting and transparency in education outcomes for foster youth means foster youth who were at a high likelihood of dropping out are getting the attention they deserve.
Working with caseworkers, Foster Success handles outreach, training, financial literacy, and encourages young adults in foster care, regardless of their story and background, to take advantage of every opportunity afforded to them.
While in college, Foster Success hosts regular training and sessions on financial literacy and savings for students. Additional support is available in programs like Opportunity Passport™ and Credit Build.
Foster Success regularly finds instances where young adults in foster care are being left behind. Foster Success is actively working to maximize existing funds like ETV to help support these young people in experiences similar to their non-foster care peers.