Giving money to causes for vulnerable children has always been a staple of philanthropy, but this interest has often focused on after-school programs for low-income kids, victims of child abuse, and creating equal education opportunities. Yet there’s another child-focused area of giving that’s growing, as an increasing number of funders realize how broken the U.S. foster care system really is. Statistics show that foster care kids are far less likely to get their high school diplomas or GEDs, far less likely to maintain steady employment, and much more likely to have mental health issues and run into trouble with the law.
There’s been a huge push to improve foster care in California lately, particularly in Los Angeles, where many funders have gotten behind this cause, including big names like Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. California has the most kids in the foster care system of any state in the nation. However, the state of New York comes in second in that regard, and big funders here are also paying attention.
A five-funder collaborative has emerged in the city to bring new energy and resources to improving foster care. It's called the Foster Care Excellence Fund and the funders involved are the New York Community Trust (where the fund is housed), Redlich Horwitz Foundation, Ira W. DeCamp Foundation, Joseph Leroy & Ann C. Warner Fund, and Tiger Foundation. The group is working in partnership with New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services to uncover new approaches for finding stable foster homes for local kids.
Last month, the collaborative announced its first round of foster care grants, prompting us to take a closer look at where the group’s priorities are. For this first round of giving, the strategy was to increase placement of foster care children with kinship caregivers, which are essentially other family members and friends that are already familiar with the kids. It’s often easier to place foster care children with foster parents who are already licensed, yet research shows that kids are more likely to thrive when they’re placed with kin instead.
There has also been a big push to support programs to recruit, train and retain foster parents to be better equipped for the job. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has also kicked in funds to aid the Administration for Children’s Services efforts for getting prospective foster parents certified. (Hilton's foster funding flows to both Los Angeles and New York City with a focus on helping older kids who are transitioning out of the foster care system.)
Natasha Lifton, senior program officer for human services at the New York Community Trust, said:
We are thrilled to help more agencies participate in this promising program. Kids in foster care have experienced tremendous trauma in their young lives. We owe it to them to find quality homes where they can get the love and support they need to heal and succeed.
To this end and thus far, the funder collaborative has provided grants to New York Foundling, Good Shepherd Services, Graham Windham, Sheltering Arms Children and Family Services, Coalition for Hispanic Family Services, and New Yorkers for Children.
In total, the new foster care commitment is $750,000, and these groups will likely receive support next year too thanks to NYCT’s Foster Care Excellence Fund.
This collaborative, by the way, is another example of NYCT's leadership in bringing funders together to tackle tough challenges in the city. As a general rule, though, collaborative funds at NYCT do not accept unsolicited proposals and instead, they issue requests for proposals or solicit nonprofits to apply for grants. Check the RFP and LOI page for the community foundation regularly to keep up with any upcoming foster care funding opportunities.