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Building a Path to Graduation: Success for Foster Youth

In 2012, Treehouse, a community-based organization dedicated to supporting foster youth, set a bold goal to transform the lives of youth in foster care by ensuring that by 2017, they graduate from high school with a plan for their future at the same rate as their peers. To appreciate just how bold a vision that is, it is important to know that foster youth in King County fall behind their peers on every education measure, and fewer than half graduate high school on time.


Graduate Success is Treehouse’s intensive, evidence-based response to ensure foster youth graduate from high school ready for the future. Daily monitoring of ABC data (attendance, behavior and course performance) allows Treehouse educational specialists who work in middle and high schools throughout the county to understand what’s happening with their students in real time and to offer individualized, student-centered planning and interventions. The focus on self-determination and self-advocacy puts youth in control and helps them dream big, set goals and identify specific steps to make progress.

Implementation began in the 2012-13 school year, and early results are exciting. Of 68 seniors from the Class of 2014, 68% graduated high school, and 95% of those who did not graduate have a plan for completion. More than 78% of Treehouse graduates are attending or plan to attend college or vocational school.

Graduate Success served 542 youth in more than 100 schools during 2014. By 2017, Treehouse hopes to reach every middle and high school foster youth in the region. Growing the program while continuing to cultivate great results are priorities going forward.

Though not cheap, successfully supporting foster youth is a good investment that translates into major savings in social service and other costs down the road. And if this combination of individualized strategies is effective in helping foster youth graduate and succeed in postsecondary education, then it could also be applied to other groups of high-risk youth in our region.