Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities and promote healthy childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Coaching for foster-involved young people: My Life for College (ML-C) is a coaching program for youth who are currently or were formerly in the foster care system. The program aims to address participants’ mental health needs while promoting access to and success in college through skill-building workshops, coaching, and transition supports.

  • Providing programming for high school and college students: ML-C is divided into two tracks: Better Futures and Project FUTURES. The former focuses on high school seniors in the foster care system who have mental health conditions. The latter targets young adults later on, when they have aged out of foster care and are freshmen or sophomores in a post-secondary program. In both instances, participants are often referred to the program by a child welfare agency or a social service nonprofit.

  • Building skills through coaching and workshops: Both Better Futures and Project FUTURES follow the same program model, which involves both coaching and mentoring workshop components. Participants are assigned a coach, who they meet with at least twice per month over a 9 to 12 month period. During these sessions, coaches support participants as they learn skills needed for post-secondary success (e.g., setting goals, handling discouragement). Additionally, participants attend four to five mentoring workshops led by their coaches. Typically, participants select workshop topics, which may include finding housing, completing college applications, handling stress, and more.

  • Preparing participants for college life: In addition to coaching and workshops, participants in the Better Futures program spend four days on a college campus as part of a “summer institute.” Students prepare for college life by staying in dorms and taking part in information sessions on college admissions, resources, and other subjects related to postsecondary success.

  • Leveraging college student coaches: The ML-C model is designed to be adopted by a range of organizations that serve adolescents and young adults who are or were involved in foster care (e.g., child welfare agency). Typically, the implementing organization hires a program manager, who provides oversight and recruits, trains, and supports coaches. The coaches are near-peers (under 28 years old), who are currently enrolled in a higher education program. Often, coaches have similar lived experiences with mental health and foster care as do participants.

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that My Life for College is a well-supported strategy for improving outcomes related to mental health and college access and readiness.

  • A 2021 research synthesis identified strong evidence for Better Futures as an effective educational intervention for children and adolescents in child welfare, mentoring program, and intervention for transition-age youth.

  • A 2021 research synthesis identified promising evidence for My Life as an effective intervention for transition-age youth.

  • Recruit using referrals: The ML-C model requires near-peer coaches to make a substantial time commitment to the program (i.e., 40-50 hours over a year). Since people are more likely to volunteer when they have been asked by someone they know, organizations delivering ML-C should create a referral program for current employees and coaches to conduct individualized outreach to potential coaches in their network.
  • Individualize support to each participant: ML-C coaches are trained to engage participants in activities that can increase college access and persistence (e.g., reviewing high school transcripts, visiting a post-secondary institution). However, each participant has different needs, and coaches should be encouraged to adjust their focus to best fit the participant’s goals.

  • Leverage training resources for staff: For a delivery partner to be certified as a ML-C provider, its staff must undergo a four-day on-site training provided by Portland State University. Supplemental training is provided to a supervisor, who can serve as an in-house trainer and ensure ongoing fidelity to the program model at the site.

  • Partner with post-secondary institutions: To deliver the ML-C program, organizations require partnerships with local colleges and universities. Such partnerships can make the recruitment of near-peer coaches easier and provide program staff with access to campuses for coaching sessions and summer institute programming.