Foster Youth Coordinator Leads New Program

By: Chantal Richards

The struggles that foster youth face don’t end when the calendar marks their 18th birthday.The next step on their journey is finding support for the transition to becoming independent while furthering their education.

Foster youth are students who have been involved in foster care or were emancipated from the foster care system at the age of 18. Chico State’s Foster Youth Program, headed by Marina Fox, helps with this next step by providing financial support, housing, counseling, employment, and career planning to the foster youth students on campus.

“These students have no family support and usually need assistance in different areas like making connections with peers,” said Fox. “They don’t have a place to go during the breaks because they have no one to take them.”

Fox graduated from Chico State in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in social work, and now, 16 years later, she is back as Chico State’s new foster youth coordinator.

Her experience on campus has led her to want the best for these students, and she is not alone.

Sheridans at Jewlery Shop
Marina Fox, the new Foster Youth Program coordinator, sits in
her Student Services Center office, 310.

"After being here for just barely over a month, there are so many people that have been welcoming, and I have had a very good experience," she said. "People are so supportive and helpful. They want to collaborate and are committed to the Foster Youth Program and committed to all students."

As Fox goes through the school databases, she has noticed current students who are foster youth are being missed because they aren’t being identified as foster youth when they should be. Without her, these students weren’t getting all the resources available to them.

Three to 11 percent of foster youth graduate college, according to national statistics; among them are about 100 students on the Chico State campus.

"The statistics are tragic," said Fox. "That is 28 percent of the general population. To really put in the infrastructure to support that demographic is amazing."

But to create this kind of support, Fox knows she cannot do it alone. She is contacting students within the Foster Youth Program to ask what they want to see implemented. She wants their input to make the program successful and beneficial.

"I'm asking students, how do you want this program to look? What do you want from this program?" said Fox.

While Fox knows she needs the input of students, she also relies on her 17 years of experience working with foster youth and program development.

Fox worked in Washington state for nonprofit organizations after she graduated before moving to Santa Rosa, California, with her husband.

"We just kind of picked it out of a hat and said, 'This would be a nice place to live,'" said Fox.

Fox worked in Santa Rosa with at-risk youth in a vocational and educational setting. She helped with tutoring, supplying internships during the summer, as well as internships year round after school for her at-risk youth assignments in a very structured and monitored environment.

Before coming to Chico State, Fox worked for Connecting Circles of Care, which was a wrap-around team that involved a clinician, a case worker, and a family partner in Gridley,California.

Fox worked on the Latino team as the case worker. While there, Fox was promoted to supervisor and started an after-school program for students.

"It was about empowering the youth,” she said. “It was the whole youth voice and getting them social rehabilitation skills.”

While working with different departments such as the housing and financial departments, Fox has gotten a sense that she isn't alone in her mission to help the foster youth on campus.

"I am thrilled that there is such a commitment from the University and the departments," said Fox. "There is at least one contact person from each department."

Fox is also earning a Master of Social Work. She hopes to grow the Foster Youth Program in the next couple of years and eventually apply what she learns in her master’s work during year three of a three-phase grant awarded to the Foster Youth Program. The grant of $150,000 per year was received from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, and is shared among Chico State, Butte College, and Shasta College.

The grant is broken down into three phases.
  • Year one of the grant requires 15 foster youth students needing additional support from the University.
  • Year two of the grant grows to 20 students needing additional support.
  • Year three of the grant grows to 25 students, and a mentoring program will be added. Fox hopes to implement the research she did during her MSW project.

The program is also using grant money to take two students to the Foster Youth Education Summit March 10–11 in Sacramento. They will participate in workshops and talk with policy makers on a visit to the Capitol.

"This program is amazing," said Fox. "The policy makers are really paying attention to this population and really putting in the structure to help them to succeed."