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  Exploring Occupational Opportunities
  Getting Your Education
  Learning to Make School Work for You
  Planning for College
  Getting Career Skills and Experience

Planning for College

Foster Youth Educational Planning Guide 
Guidelines, resources and checklists specifically to help foster youth in grades 6-12 to choose a successful pathway to college.

College and Training Options for Foster Youth
This is a tip sheet for foster youth on technical/vocation programs, community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. Includes college support programs and types of financial aid. From Know Before You Go Toolkit by the Alliance for Children’s Rights.

Community College Resources

Youth Empowerment Strategies for Success (YESS-ILP)
The Youth Empowerment Strategies for Success—Independent Living Program is a comprehensive and integrated program hosted on California Community College campuses throughout the state. It brings unites community partners and academic leaders to empower current and former foster youth to successfully transition into independent living. With a focus on higher education and career training, the YESS-ILP provides youth with life skills and access to supportive campus connections to increase their ability to succeed. For more information, see the YESS-ILP Fact Sheet.

Foster Youth Success Initiative (FYSI) Liaisons
Every community college in California has a FYSI liaison who is there to help you access student resources, secure basic living needs so that you can attend community college, and support you in achieving your education goals. Use this Directory of FYSI Liaisons by Community College Campus to find the Foster Youth Liaison at any of the 113 community colleges campuses in California.  Not sure what community colleges are near you? Try using the Directory of FYSI Liaisons by Region instead.

Check out the FYSI College and Financial Aid Resources for Students or the online flipbook for much more information about how to use community college resources to get your technical degree or to transfer to a four-year college.

Guardian Scholars Program

Adapted from the College page of the Foster Care Ombudsman website

The Guardian Scholars Program is one of best known college support programs for foster youth. It provides comprehensive services to help former foster youth get a university, community college or trade school education. Guardian Scholars students receive:

  • Full Financial Aid Package - grants and scholarship packages cover tuition and living expenses.
  • Housing – priority for campus housing and availability of year-round housing, either on or off campus.
  • Academic Advisement – assistance with class selection & registration.
  • Employment Services, Mentoring and Career Counseling – job placement, shadowing and advising.
  • Personal Guidance, Counseling, Tutoring – regular contact with a consistent counselor to develop and monitor an education plan.
  • Supplemental Support Services – child care, transportation help, book and supply vouchers etc.

A limited number of foster youth are accepted each year. If you would like more information, contact the Office of the Foster Care Ombudsman at 1-877-846-1602.

Foster Youth – College is for You!
The California State University (CSU) Foster Youth Programs supports California foster youth in achieving their educational and career goals. In this video, CSU foster youth from throughout the state share their stories and recommendations on what has assisted them along their journey to college. From the Guardian Scholars Program.

Guardian Scholars and Similar Programs
Two-page information sheet from the Foster Care Ombudsman. Includes a list of colleges that are providing these kinds of support services for former foster youth (not dated).

California College Pathways

Comprehensive Web Resource for Foster Youth
Managed by the John Burton Foundation.

California College Pathways is a comprehensive website for California foster youth who want to access supports and opportunities to attend college. California College Pathways is a statewide partnership that provides resources and leadership to campuses and community organizations to help foster youth succeed at community colleges and four-year universities.

Foster Care Benefits   

College Planning

Housing and Basic Needs

Youth Voices

Other College Resources for Foster Youth

Foster youth are eligible for many types of financial aid. There are state financial aid programs, federal financial aid programs, college and university financial aid programs, and scholarships from different sources.

Scholarships Just for Foster Youth

  • Chafee Grants for Foster Youth 
    Free Money for Foster Youth for College or Career Training [From the Chafee website] If you are or were in foster care between the ages of 16 and 18 as a dependent or ward of the court and have financial need, you may qualify for up to $5,000 a year for career and technical training or college. You don’t have to pay this money back. You may also be able to use your grant to help pay for child care, transportation and rent while you’re in school. You can use your Chafee Grant at any eligible California college or university or career or technical school, as well as schools in other states. Online application typically begins in October for the next school year.
  • Foster Care to Success Sponsored Scholarships 
    Scholarships to help fund post-secondary education for foster youth range between $1,500 and $5,000 a year to pay for books and supplies, community college classes or university classes.
  • Financial Aid for Foster Youth 
    Detailed description of financial aid opportunities for foster youth, including eligibility links to websites at the end. Prepared by the Foster Care Ombudsman.

Educational Opportunities in Other States

  • National Post-Secondary Support Map for Foster Youth 
    This interactive online map shows programs gives you a portal for exploring 4-year college programs throughout the country that offer support and/or state tuition waivers for foster youth. From Michigan Fostering Success and Casey Family Programs.

Need Help Now?


California Youth Crisis Line: 1-800-843-5200
Connecting youth to trained counselors and local services, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Your Life, Your Voice1-800-448-3000

Crisis Text Line
: send text to 741 741 


Quick Links

Foster Youth Wellness Home
Physical Wellness 
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Intellectual Wellness
Spiritual Wellness
Social Wellness
Environmental Wellness
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Financial Wellness

Printable Documents


Know Your Rights!

If you have questions about your rights or need help with other issues while you are in foster care, contact the Office of the Foster Care Ombudsperson.
Foster Care Ombudsperson
1-877-846-1602 (toll-free helpline)

General Site Disclaimers 

The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. The views expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of the CDSS. The CDSS does not endorse, support or advocate in any way the viewpoints or information contained in this website.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the CDSS of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. Unless otherwise specified, the CDSS does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.