News & Announcements

Ohio Confronts Rising Foster Care Needs with Innovative Programs and Support Systems

Cleveland State University (CSU) is excited to launch Pathways to Independence, a comprehensive initiative designed to empower foster youth as they transition to adulthood. This groundbreaking program comprises eight modules that focus on essential life skills, financial literacy, workforce readiness, and personal development, aiming to fill critical gaps in resources and support. By fostering self-awareness, teaching goal-setting, and providing practical skills in budgeting, job search, and community resource navigation, the program equips participants with the tools necessary for successful independent living.

Ohio is addressing a challenging surge in its foster care population, with over 16,000 children in need of care in 2020. This issue, compounded by the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a 30% increase in foster care needs since 2011. As the state grapples with these complexities, Ohio's institutions must develop innovative approaches to support these youth, especially those transitioning to adulthood amidst a shifting economic landscape.

Immediate and long-term support for foster youth is more critical than ever. Programs providing life-saving independent living and vocational skills are essential to mitigate the long-term effects of this growing crisis. Initiatives like the statewide Bridges program, introduced under House Bill 50, and the Ohio Reach "Foster Friendly" designation have made significant strides in offering housing and support services for those aging out of foster care. However, true long-term change requires systemic transformation beyond immediate assistance.

The Pathways to Independence program are a testament to CSU's commitment to fostering generational change and supporting foster youth beyond traditional educational frameworks. A collaborative effort between CSU's Office of Workforce Development within the Division of Continuing and Extended Education and the Pratt Center, each module is designed with specific outcomes in mind, from managing personal finances and securing housing to developing interpersonal skills and exploring diverse career fields through experiential learning. By integrating academic resources, career counseling, life skills training, and mentorship, CSU continues to be a leader in innovative support for foster youth, ensuring they can overcome past adversities and thrive in adulthood.

Since 2015, Cleveland State University (CSU) has led transformative efforts with the Sullivan-Deckard Scholarship Opportunity Program, followed by the Pratt Fostering Success and Leadership Center in 2017, and now its "Pathways to Independence" program launching in June 2024. These initiatives solidify CSU's role as a beacon of innovation in post-secondary education. Designed to empower foster youth as they transition to adulthood, the "Pathways to Independence" program exemplifies CSU's commitment to leveraging academic resources and expertise to forge pathways extending beyond traditional support mechanisms. By integrating academic advising, career counseling, life skills training, and mentorship, "Pathways to Independence" pioneers a comprehensive approach to foster youth empowerment.

This initiative addresses the immediate needs of young individuals while preparing them for long-term success. It embodies the potential for generational change in resource deployment for foster youth. CSU's innovative approach highlights significant investments in Ohio, particularly in Cuyahoga County, aimed at transforming the lives of foster youth through education and community integration. Individuals completing the certificate will have the opportunity to move into an in-demand workforce development certificate, work with a mentor to consider degree programs, or receive additional support to find employment.