A Future Starts Here
Every year, nearly 30,000 young adults “age out” of foster care without the life skills and support network to help them become independent, successful adults. These youth want to go to college (84%), yet 51% don’t complete high school. Just 2% of youth emerging from foster care earn a degree of any kind after high school.
To address this national crisis, KVC Health Systems, a private, nonprofit child welfare and behavioral health organization, is establishing the nation’s first college campus designed specifically to support youth transitioning from foster care. Riverbend Center Supporting Higher Education aims to be a new national model, representing a unique infrastructure of specialized services and supports, tailored to seamlessly support older youth from foster care into high-demand careers paying sustainable wages.
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This 118-acre college community campus, located in Montgomery, West Virginia, is the former home of the West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech). Through a 25-year lease purchase agreement, KVC took possession of the furnished facility in July 2017 and immediately began repurposing the campus into a fully-capable educational environment with subtle wraparound supports to create a safe, nurturing environment for young adults transitioning from the foster care system.
Media Coverage of Riverbend Center:
- The Chronicle of Social Change: America’s First College for Former Foster Youth Will Open This Fall
- Charleston Gazette-Mail: Montgomery foster college gets name, opening date of July
- WSAZ: KVC Health Systems announces new name for WVU Tech campus
- 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”
Bettering Life After Foster Care
Each year nearly 30,000 young adults age out of foster care nationally without a support system or adequate life and career skills to transition into independent, successful adults. An overwhelming number of these young people experience chronic unemployment, homelessness, have substance use issues or become absorbed into the criminal justice system. A very small percentage of emerging youth earn degrees or complete career training after high school and many do not successfully finish high school.
Many state child welfare systems, including West Virginia, recognize these unique challenges and offer services beyond the age of 18. These services require the young adult to opt in to receive services or benefits and include allowances for college tuition and living expenses. These programs are designed to assist transitioning youth with financial self-sufficiency, career skills/secondary education, access to health care services, and healthy connections with adults and the community. However, without adequate support, many young people do not remain in the system and fall into undesirable situations.
The availability of the WVU Tech campus offers a unique opportunity to establish a model to address this system-wide gap. Through KVC’s existing collaborative partnerships BridgeValley Community & Technical College, the YMCA, WVU Tech, and many other national foundations, state governments, and child advocacy groups, the KVC college campus will implement research-based, state-of-the-art educational programming blended with supportive care. This program will evolve to ensure the inclusion of evidence-based practices to provide the best possible advantage for this underserved population.
About This Revolutionary Campus
The Riverbend community — founded with a focus on partnership and collaboration — positions young adults to successfully build and connect to their community (i.e. peers, educators, mentors, employers).
KVC is partnered with BridgeValley Community & Technical College to provide accredited educational services (degrees & certificates), access to financial aid and other student services, and college preparatory programs. BridgeValley offers many workforce certificate and degree programs you can view online here. The campus will feature hands-on classroom instruction, a vibrant campus life, on-campus internships and employment, community service, life coaching and access to health services necessary to bridge the gap between foster care and successful, independent living.
“The partnership between BridgeValley, KVC and the YMCA will provide a sense of community and academic support to empower these students transitioning out of care,” said Dr. Bellinger, President of BridgeValley. “There is a dire need to increase the college-going rate of this population, and BridgeValley’s caring community and innovative curriculum is a perfect environment for these students to gain the life skills and college degree to unlock a bright future.”
Montgomery also has a local hospital with ready access to student healthcare with the potential to partner on educational programs and student internship experience. The campus is only 30 minutes from the Charleston, the State Capitol and center of culture and education, is and close to many towns strong in ecotourism.
Riverbend is excited to join forces with the Upper Kanawha Valley to promote success and resiliency for young adults aging out of foster care while supporting an area desperate for economic growth. KVC has a proven record in enhancing quality of life through wrap- around services and is eager to empower youth in a college setting to create a brighter future.
Youth need your support. Get involved today.
The impact of helping thousands of young adults better transition into meaningful employment and self-sufficiency is worth the investment. Each successful student that graduates from the campus and achieves self-reliance defines our success and additionally will reduce the cycle of dependency in youth formally in care, saving Federal and State tax dollars. Further, economic analysis demonstrates a staggering positive impact on the community and region.
We continue to meet with leaders in West Virginia and communities that are excited about and committed to seeing this vision come to fruition. We look forward to continuing to share more information as it becomes available. In the meantime, if you have questions or want to help bring this vision to life, please contact Brent Lemon, President of KVC West Virginia, at email@example.com or (304) 347-9818.
KVC West Virginia operates in 26 West Virginia counties with nine office locations and 120 case managers, therapists and highly-trained staff. It helps children and families through in-home behavioral healthcare, wraparound support, foster care, and adoption. Learn more at www.kvcwv.org.
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 accredited by The Joint Commission, considered the gold standard in healthcare. Learn more at www.kvc.org.