Treehouse, which gives youth in foster care a childhood and a future, announced students in its Graduation Success program exceed the graduation rate for all fifth-year seniors in King County, Tacoma and Spokane by 7 percent, with an 89 percent extended graduation rate.
“Congratulations to the youth in foster care who set and achieved numerous goals along the way as they worked to earn their diplomas. This is a major achievement for our youth and everyone in the community who supports our mission,” said Janis Avery, CEO of Treehouse.
Treehouse launched Graduation Success in 2012 and set a five-year goal for youth in foster care across King County to graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers. At the time, graduation rates for youth in foster care throughout the county were below 40 percent. The program expanded into Tacoma and Spokane this past school year.
Based in middle schools and high schools, Graduation Success introduces true education focus into the youth’s lives, often for the first time. Part coach, part parent and frequently part best friend, Treehouse’s Education Specialists meet with their students weekly—every week, year in and year out without fail, even during the summer. The students take charge of their own futures by setting goals, making plans and advocating for themselves.
One of the key learnings of the program is that it’s not realistic for all youth in foster care to graduate from high school in four years. Among other challenges, the average youth changes placements three times and loses four to six months of academic progress at each stop.
“Most students who drop out of high school do so in their senior year. They are credit deficient or haven’t passed critical tests, and they become hopeless,” Avery said. “We stick with our students whether it takes them five years to graduate, six or more. They ultimately finish high school because it has meaning for them and for their plans.”
Fifty-three out of 83 Graduation Success seniors graduated with their original class in 2016 (64 percent), and an additional 20 powered on for a fifth year and graduated in June. That’s 74 total out of 83 students who have now graduated. Treehouse will continue working with the remaining nine students.
The program’s on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2017 is 68 percent (54 out of 80 students). Since 2012, the rate has fluctuated between 59 and 68 percent.
Nationally, only 50 percent of youth in foster care graduate from high school by age 18 vs. 83 percent for all students. In Washington the numbers are even lower with 43 percent of youth in foster care graduating with their original class and 49 percent in five years—40 points less than Treehouse’s extended rate.
Without a high school diploma and a plan for their future, youth in foster care experience disproportionately high rates of poverty, homelessness, incarceration, early parenting and substance abuse. Every youth that graduates from high school saves taxpayers $1 million over their lifetime.
Included in Treehouse’s rates are students who received their GED and those in special education with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) who walked with their class but do not complete the graduation process until they’re 21."