FUTURES = Fostering Unity Towards Uplifting Resilience, Education, and Success

The focus of this project is to enhance self-determination and community participation to help young adults build skills to navigate the university system and increase postsecondary success and engagement. Project FUTURES will identify and outreach to young adults who are a freshman, sophomore, or junior at PSU or PCC, who have a history of significant mental health challenges, who are 26 or younger and who were or are currently in foster care. Young adults who are in or were in foster care and are entering their freshman year at Portland State University will be paired with an upper division student at Portland State University. Upper division students will be identified as near peer coaches who are further along in their education and will support first year students for one year. Both the near-peer coaches and participants of FUTURES will have lived experience in the foster care system and mental health challenges.

Across the academic year, the participant would be supported to consider his or her current life and college experiences, and to identify and pursue short-term goals related to remaining and succeeding in higher education. Goals would be selected by the student and coaching would include relationship support (e.g., consistent, accepting, transparent), sharing and practicing skills (e.g., problem-solving, strategic self-disclosure in requesting accommodations), and experiential activities (e.g., visiting career center, informational interview with an employer, applying for financial aid or housing).

Students will also participate in: 1) a for-credit College Success class, tailored to address the unique needs of this group, 2) workshops throughout the year to build community among one another and with the larger university campus, 3) and be supported by campus champions serving as point-people across a variety of departments at the University (i.e., financial aid, disability resource center, housing, academic departmental staff and faculty, etc.) trained to provide tailored support to student participants.

Both Better Futures and My Life have been added to the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare. FUTURES is adapted from both of these models.

Publications and Products

Brief: Supporting College Student Success through Connections to Mentors and Campus Champions: A Strategy Brief for Campus-Based Mentors and Other Student Support Programs

This brief shares best practices learned on the Project Futures research study being conducted at Portland State University and local community colleges in Portland, Oregon. The study is testing evidence-based mentoring strategies for college freshmen with lived experience in foster care and with mental health stressors.

Journal Article: Network Indicators of the Social Ecology of Adolescents in Relative and Non-Relative Foster Households

In order to better understand the social ecology of youth in foster care, this article from Children and Youth Services Review examined the social networks of foster youth participating in a large RCT of an intervention for siblings in foster care.

Journal Article: Assessing Support Network Stability with Transition-Age Foster Youth: Measuring Change Over Time

This article from Research on Social Work Practice examines a study that uses the Support Network Assessment for Practice (SNAP) approach to measure the support provided to young people transitioning from foster care.

Conference Proceedings: BUILDing Student Developmental Networks in Academic Settings.

Blakeslee, J. E., Richardson, D., Zell, A., & Keller, T. E. (2016). BUILDing student developmental networks in academic settings. In Dominguez, N. & Alexander, D. (Eds.), 9th Annual Mentoring Conference Proceedings: Developmental Networks: The Power of Mentoring and Coaching. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM.

Tip Sheet: Helping Young Adults from Foster Care Succeed in College

This tip sheet addresses issues that can hinder young adults in their efforts to attend or succeed in college. The tip sheet offers strategies to college faculty and staff to support students from foster care to overcome these issues.


Take Charge for the Future: Strategies for Enhancing Self-Determination with High-School and College Students

Presented at Blueprint for Success, Los Angeles, CA, October, 2015.

Stability of Racial and Ethnic Self-Identification Among Youths in Foster Care

Presented at the Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting, Denver, CO, October, 2015.