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SLO County’s foster care system is now among the best in the state

The San Luis Obispo County foster care system is now among the best in the state. Recent high school graduation rates for SLO foster youth are on the rise, surpassing the state average.

Angela Holmes, a program manager at the county’s Department of Social Services, says educational success is tied to home stability. Unfortunately, finding the right place for many of them can be difficult.

“And that can cause a really unsettled, unstable feeling for youth to not know where they’re going next,” said Holmes.

This means kids are sometimes bouncing to different homes and schools, “which leads to that challenging rate to graduation,” said Holmes.

But in recent years, San Luis Obispo County has raised the bar at the educational forefront for foster youth.

This past school year, 77 percent of students in foster care graduated from school. At the state level, only about half of them got a diploma.

The latest rate in SLO is a 3 percent rise from the previous year.

County leaders attribute this to two programs unique to San Luis Obispo.

“We provide choice educational services, which starts working with youth when they’re freshman in high school to help them develop a path to secondary education, whether that’s college or trade school,” said Holmes.

The second program offers extended financial services.

“I think it takes the county to be creative and to look at the opportunities that they can build independently in order to move those programs forward,” Holmes said.

SLO County has also been helping young adults after high school.

“Youth who age out of foster care at the age of 18 have a difficult time being successful in the community because they’re very young and don’t have the familial support that typically youth do.”

But a state law extending care to age 21 has meant higher success rates at the county level.

“They feel that they wouldn’t have been necessarily able to do it without the support,” said Holmes.

Some may also qualify for assistance after they turn 21.

“We can also offer services including housing support until their 24 th birthday, and they receive Medical services until their 26 th birthday.”

Holmes says the county is currently in need of more foster families.

“Our greatest need is for families to take care of our teenagers and sibling groups.”

There are 375 kids in foster care in SLO County, and only 150 families.

For information, call the Department of Social Services at 805-781-1700, or visit their website.

KEYT 2019

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