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Fostering Opportunities Now a Proven Practice


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Governor Polis signs the Foster Youth Success Act.

Left to right: Elysia Clemens, Deputy Director/COO, Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab; Minna Castillo Cohen, Director, Office of Children, Youth and Families, Colorado Department of Human Services; Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet, Chair, House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee; Colorado Governor Jared Polis; and Josh Bogen, Aide to Representative Jenet.

In Colorado, only 1 in 4 students who experience foster care during high school graduate with their class. In response, Jefferson County Public Schools and Jefferson County Human Services developed and piloted Fostering Opportunities.

The program features three core elements:

  • Youth-serving agencies coordinate efforts, aligning and opening up communications between child welfare, education, and other youth-serving agencies.
  • Systems track and support students across placements and schools, actively identifying students eligible for the program.
  • Education specialists work directly with students as dedicated mentors that provide academic and social-emotional support, advocate on their behalf, teach them how to advocate for themselves, and help them to build a reliable network of support in the school environment and beyond.

I have never felt more noticed or listened to than when I learned I could be in this program. Going into foster care took so many things away from me, which sucked… but I gained the support of the program and without that, I don’t know where I would be now… I probably would’ve quit school… yeah, maybe in trouble or something. But [the Specialist] kept showing up for me and believing in me and telling me I could be better, so I guess I started to believe it. She got on my nerves with her positivity but I get it, and I am grateful.

Student who participated in the Jeffco Fostering Opportunities program

Following the completion of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of the program conducted by the Colorado Lab, Fostering Opportunities has become the only approach in Colorado proven to improve educational outcomes for middle school and high school students in foster care.

The study is detailed in a new report from the Colorado Lab, Fostering Opportunities: Success Measures for a Pay for Success Pilot Program and Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Evaluation findings show 26% of students who had access to the Fostering Opportunities program were on track to graduate at a higher rate at the end of the study than in the control group. The RCT also showed statistically significant gains in student attendance rates 

and a decrease in the number of student suspensions.

As Colorado’s first-ever state-funded Pay for Success project, Fostering Opportunities is paying off. The Community First Foundation provided initial funding to test this intervention. Because the RCT result far exceeded the Pay for Success “highest level of success” agreed-to goal of achieving a 10% improvement of students on track to graduate, the State of Colorado will repay the initial investment plus interest to the foundation.

Fostering Opportunities will continue in Jefferson County in perpetuity with support from the state’s general fund, made

possible by Colorado’s Foster Care Success Act (HB22-1374). The law also provides funding for two additional school districts to adopt Fostering Opportunities in the 2023-2024 school year.

Fostering Opportunities Project Partners
Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Children, Youth and Families; Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab; Colorado Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting; Community First Foundation; Jefferson County Human Services; and Jefferson County Public Schools.

To learn more, contact Dr. Elysia Clemens, Colorado Lab Deputy Director/COO.