The mission of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative is to ensure that young people—primarily those ages 14 through 25—make successful transitions from foster care to adulthood. We do this by working nationally, in states, and locally to improve policies and practices, promote youth engagement, apply evaluation and research, and create community partnerships. Our work creates opportunities for young people to achieve positive outcomes in permanence, education, employment, housing, health, financial capability, and social capital.

Our vision is for every young person leaving foster to have the opportunities and support needed for a successful transition to adulthood.

In any given state, there are hundreds of young people at risk for leaving foster care without permanent connections to a stable family and community. Each year, 23,000 young people transition without the typical growing-up experiences that teach self-sufficiency skills, and without the family supports and community networks that help them make successful transitions to adulthood. As a result, these young people experience very poor outcomes at a much higher rate than the general population:

  • More than one in five will become homeless after age 18 1
  • Only 58 percent will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87 percent of all 19 year olds) 2
  • 71 percent of young women are pregnant by 21, facing higher rates of unemployment, criminal conviction, public assistance, and involvement in the child welfare system 3
  • At the age of 24, only half are employed 4
  • Fewer than 3 percent will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28 percent of all 25 year olds 5
  • One in four will be involved in the justice system within two years of leaving the foster care system 6

Nationwide, we help bridge a gap in services for these young people so they can have the opportunity to achieve a better path as they transition from foster care to adulthood.

Created in 2001, we are a national initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, with major funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Sherwood Foundation, and critical support contributed each year by a network of regional and local foundations. We currently have public and private partnerships in 17 sites across the country, and we have plans to expand to more states in the coming years.

  1. Casey Family Programs. (1998). Northwest foster care alumni study. Seattle, WA.
    p. 37
  2. Courtney, M.E., and Dworsky, A. (2005). Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth: Outcomes at age 19. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall Center for Children.
    p. 22
  3. Pecora, P.J., Kessler, R.C., Williams, J., O’Brien, K., Downs, A.C., English, D., White, J., Hiripi, E., White, C.R., Wiggins, T., and Holmes, K. (2005). Improving family foster care: Findings from the Northwest foster care alumni study. Seattle, WA: Casey Family Programs. p. 1Courtney, M.E., Hook, J.L., and Lee, J.S. Distinct Subgroups of Former Foster Youth During the Transition to Adulthood: Implications for Policy and Practice. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
  4. Pecora, P.J., et al. (see note #3)
  5. Pecora, P.J., et al. (see note #3)
  6. Courtney, M.E., Dworsky, A., Terao, S., Bost, N., Cusick, G.R., Keller, T., and Havlicek, J. (2005). Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth: Outcomes at age 19. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall Center for Children. p. 61