Arizona Community Foundation and Helios Education Foundation Award $500,000 for Education Reform for Foster Youth

Posted on: May 15, 2012

The Arizona Community Foundation and Helios Education Foundation proudly announce the award of $500,000 to the National Center for Youth Law. The grant is the fourth award in three years from the Accio Education Fund, a venture capital type of charitable fund created by ACF and Helios. The Fund, which is held and managed at ACF, was established to support the development and expansion of innovative education reform efforts for the benefit of Arizona students, with ACF and Helios contributing equally.

At any given time, there are approximately 500,000 foster children in the United States. Removed from their families because they have experienced abuse or neglect, they suffer from tragically poor academic outcomes. Despite an abundance of evidence suggesting the importance of parental involvement, foster children frequently don't have an adult in their life instilling high educational expectations, discussing school, and ensuring they are enrolled in the right classes and receiving appropriate educational opportunities. The Foster Youth Education Initiative (FosterEd) improves the educational outcomes of foster children by ensuring that each has such an educational champion.

An initiative of the National Center for Youth Law, FosterEd draws upon more than four decades of state-level system reform work to help states create programs serving all school-age foster children, including those eligible for early childhood education settings. NCYL has worked collaboratively with agencies in more than 15 states to improve the outcomes of disadvantaged children.

The Accio Education Fund grant will help FosterEd establish research-based, data-driven programs aimed at improving the educational outcomes of foster children in Arizona.

"We are proud to support FosterEd's efforts to give foster youth in our state a collective voice and a greater opportunity for educational success," said Jim Pitofsky, ACF's Chief Strategy Officer. "FosterEd's commitment to foster youth in general and to Arizona specifically is inspiring. Because they did their homework on Arizona, our state's needs, and the key allies, their efforts will truly have an impact statewide."

In a yearlong series of stories, The Arizona Republic, and 12 News are examining the welfare of Arizona's children, highlighting the state's many families in crisis. Some of their stories have ended happily, others tragically; many include sobering statistics about children, their families, the people who take them in, and the agencies that serve them. Here is a link to that information:

FosterEd's objectives in Arizona are to:

1. Collaboratively create a sustainable pilot project that improves the educational outcomes of foster children by ensuring each of them has an educational champion.

2. Work with the Arizona Department of Education, Department of Economic Security, and Administrative Office of the Courts to create a statewide foster youth education program modeled on the successful pilot.

3. Build the capacity of these agencies to operate, sustain and improve the program, improving the educational outcomes of all Arizona foster children.

"Our goal is to improve the educational outcomes of the approximately 10,000 children who, at any given time, are in Arizona's foster care system," said Jesse Hahnel, director of the FosterEd Initiative. "In taking children into state custody we become collectively responsible for ensuring they succeed in school and are equipped to succeed in life."

ACF and Helios sought nominations from a field of nonprofit organizations, funders and businesses. Their request specifically called for innovative education reform programs already in Arizona and those from other states considering expansion to Arizona. Nominations were evaluated by a panel of recognized authorities that included representative voices of teachers, principals and superintendents from around the state, as well as representatives from leaders such as Intel, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Stand for Children, Tucson Values Teachers, and the Steve Nash Foundation.

"Helios Education Foundation is investing its expertise and financial resources in initiatives that create a high-expectations, college-going culture in Arizona and Florida," said the Foundation's President and CEO Paul Luna. "Through our support of the Accio Fund, in partnership with the Arizona Community Foundation, we are positively impacting the lives of thousands of foster youth in Arizona, helping improve their educational outcomes and creating new opportunities for them to succeed."

True start-up efforts were not encouraged for nomination, but consideration was given to expansion of an organization's proven, successful model if front-end investment had already been made and the applicant could demonstrate relevant experience to date.

The process used for selecting grant recipients from the Accio Fund has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a national model for identifying and supporting innovative reform organizations.

The Accio grants are paid over a three-year period in annual installments and include intense staff engagement and technical and strategic assistance provided by ACF and Helios.


Category: College and Career Readiness

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