Our Funding Priorities

The Walter S. Johnson Foundation assists transition-aged foster and other vulnerable youth in Northern California and Washoe County, Nevada, to become successful adults by promoting positive change to the policies and  systems that serve them and supporting high impact and promising practices in the following areas: provision of supportive services, and promotion of success in education and career.

Transition-Aged Foster Youth
Every year in California, about 4,000 youth age out of foster care without adequate social support or life skills. Only 50% of youth in foster care complete high school by age 18.  While 84% of foster youth report wanting to go to college, only 20% of those who graduate from high school ever attend and less than 3% of former foster youth in California complete a bachelor’s degree.  To ensure a successful transition to adulthood, WSJF partners with state and county social service agencies, post-secondary institutions, community-based organizations, and other foundations to support an integrated system of services, for current and former foster youth aged 14 to 24.

Types of activities supported

  • Partnerships between the child welfare system, other public agencies, and community organizations to improve services for aging-out foster youth
  • Coordinated efforts among traditional child welfare partners—foster youth, foster family agencies, kinship families, and child welfare agency staff—to meet the needs of aging out foster youth
  • Efforts to help post-secondary institutions and employment training programs to improve educational and employment outcomes for foster youth and other vulnerable population
  • Research and policy work to evaluate and support these kinds of activities

WSJF’s focuses its transition-aged foster youth grant making on:

  • Improving educational stability for young people in foster care
  • Implementation, training and evaluation of the Foster Care to 21 provisions or the California Fostering Connections to Success Act, and
  • California College Pathways Initiative – supporting foster youth in post-secondary and career technical education.
Education and Career Strategies
Fewer than one third of students that start at a California community college complete their educational goals, such as transfer to a four-year school, or completion of an associate’s degree or a career technical certificate.   Less than 3% of former foster youth received a bachelor degree.  WSJF works with post-secondary institutions, primarily community colleges, to address barriers to completion at the systems and classroom level, as well as success career and employment training programs addressing the needs of vulnerable students.

Types of activities supported

  • Programs that address the needs of vulnerable students with the ability to succeed in post secondary educational settings
  • Programs that improve employment career pathways for vulnerable young people
  • Programs that improve general education to create better pathways towards transfer
  • Research and policy work to evaluate and support these kinds of activities