KVC Health Systems, a national leader in behavioral healthcare and child welfare, is working with partners to bring a vision to life: the creation of a specialized career college for youth aging out of foster care. One possible location for the college is the campus of WVU Tech (West Virginia University Institute of Technology) in Montgomery, West Virginia, which will be vacated soon due to WVU Tech’s relocation.
The plan is an innovative response to a national tragedy that affects communities across the U.S. Each year, nearly 30,000 youth age out of the foster care system without a permanent family or home. (Download a fact sheet on the crisis here.) Research shows that this lack of support puts them at high risk of homelessness, unemployment, illness, incarceration, early childbearing, sexual and physical victimization, and being unable to reach their full potential. While virtually all states have extended foster care funding to age 21, no national model of success exists. KVC’s college is a promising solution to help youth transition to healthy, thriving adulthoods.
An Innovative Solution with Local and National Benefits
While the possible Montgomery location is new, KVC has invested years of work into its plan. It hoped to acquire a closing naval base in West Virginia as the site, but that property was sold. The possible Montgomery location gained attention earlier this month when Governor Jim Justice recognized KVC Health Systems at the beginning of his first State of the State address.
In addition to addressing a national crisis, KVC anticipates that its college will benefit the community and the state’s economy by preserving and creating jobs. It is in discussions with a wide range of partners to create vibrant offerings for students as well as revitalization for the community.
What makes KVC’s college concept unique is the combination of vocational training in high-demand fields such as healthcare, IT and hospitality services along with specialized behavioral healthcare support and career readiness training. Youth who have entered foster care due to abuse, neglect or other family challenges have often experienced trauma, and the compassionate support of therapists and other professionals will help them learn the skills needed for successful independent living.
While many details are still to be finalized, leaders and organizations across the U.S. have endorsed KVC’s plan. Organizations ranging from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago have stated that a college experience designed for this population would be an important contribution to the success of young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood.
KVC has a strong track record in the state as the largest private agency providing foster family care for children and youth. It also provides in-home behavioral healthcare, adoption services, and has worked closely with the state to implement Safe at Home WV to care for children safely in their own communities by providing wraparound services.
Nationally, KVC cares for over 6,300 children in foster care in Kansas, Nebraska, Kentucky and West Virginia each year. The organization has gained attention for integrating trauma-informed care into child welfare and related systems, for its annual Resource Family Conference involving more than 2,000 people nationwide, and its research and expertise shared through its KVC Institute for Health Systems Innovation.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is West Virginia the likely location for this college?
KVC has a strong track record in the state of West Virginia. It provides in-home behavioral healthcare, foster care, adoption and other vital services to children, adults and families. KVC West Virginia has 85 highly-trained and experienced staff who work from 9 office locations covering 26 counties. Due to KVC’s local work and national reputation, state and community leaders asked KVC to consider repurposing the closing Sugar Grove naval base. When that property became unavailable, KVC was asked to consider repurposing the soon-to-be-vacant WVU Tech campus in Montgomery. In both cases, KVC was invited to consider a particular location for its concept. KVC appreciates the many West Virginia individuals and organizations who have extended their support, partnership, and interest in advancing an innovative solution.
From which states will the students at this college originate?
The first cohort of students will likely be from West Virginia and surrounding states in the region. Students from other states who are interested in attending KVC’s college will also be able to apply.
Is a career college for youth emerging from foster care a type of “congregate care?”
No. Congregate care is a placement setting that consists of 24-hour supervision for children in highly structured settings such as group homes. KVC is known nationally for right-sizing congregate care. For example, KVC helped reduce congregate care of Kansas youth in foster care from 30% to just 4%; one of the lowest rates in the nation (learn more). KVC believes firmly that “children grow best in families” which means in homes with relatives, familiar caregivers, and foster families. Youth who attend college are young adults who are 18 years or older (and therefore, not children). They will apply to and attend KVC’s college voluntarily and manage their own time and activities. As an organization that knows youth in foster care have the same hopes and dreams as other youth, KVC is thrilled to help these young adults experience the normalcy of leaving home to attend college. In addition, leading child and family advocates who focus on youth emerging from foster care, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, have expressed their support for KVC’s plan.
I have additional questions that aren’t answered here.
Please contact Tommy Bailey, KVC’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, at (304) 542-4698.
About KVC Health Systems, Inc.
KVC Health Systems, headquartered in the greater Kansas City area, is a private, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization committed to enriching and enhancing the lives of children and families by providing medical and behavioral healthcare, social services, and education. KVC’s diverse continuum of services includes in-home family support, foster care, adoption, behavioral healthcare, and children’s psychiatric hospitals. In its 47-year history, KVC has grown from a single Kansas home for boys to a national organization touching over 60,000 people’s lives each year in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kentucky and West Virginia and providing training and consultation internationally. KVC is endorsed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a best-practice organization and accredited by The Joint Commission, considered the gold standard in healthcare. Learn more at www.kvc.org.
Media Coverage of KVC’s College:
- The Chronicle of Social Change: “West Virginia College for Current, Former Foster Youth to Open in 2018”
- Associated Press/U.S. News & World Report: “WVU Tech Campus Could Become College for Former Foster Kids”
- Open Minds: “What Might Work to Improve Outcomes of Youth Aging Out of Foster Care”
- WSAZ-TV: “First college ever designed for foster children set to open in West Virginia”
- WV MetroNews: “Community backs plan to repurpose WVU Tech in Montgomery”
- Charleston Gazette-Mail: “Former WVU Tech campus could be college for former foster children”
- Charleston Gazette-Mail: “Montgomery residents hear about future of WVU Tech campus”
- Kansas City Business Journal: “KC nonprofit plans first college for foster care youth”
- Associated Press/Huntington Herald Dispatch: “Foster care youth to get their own college in West Virginia”
- WV MetroNews: “Nonprofit looks to repurpose WVU Tech as specialized college”
- The Register-Herald: “Group aims to bring college for foster kids in Montgomery”
- The Montgomery Herald: “Child welfare group looks to take over Tech’s Montgomery campus”