Written by Bonnie Kornberg, Chief Performance Officer
Graham Windham created the Graham SLAM program in 2014 to help youth navigate the difficult transition to adulthood and defy the odds facing young adults who have been in foster care. We knew anecdotally that too many of our youth were struggling after the foster care system stopped providing support at 21. We also knew what the research said about the likelihood of terrible outcomes for young adults who have been in foster care, especially for those who have aged out, with only 3 to 6% graduating college by 26 years old. Knowing this, we were driven to develop more supportive programming.
With Graham SLAM, we proactively seek to engage all of the youth 16+ in our foster care program by connecting them with a professional coach to stick with them until they’re 25. Through these relationships, we have been able to help youth stay on track or get back on track toward high school and post-secondary success, obtain employment and find stable housing. We have seen high school graduation rates go up from roughly 50% of seniors to nearly all youth who reach their senior year, and we support high school progress, including attending school, finding the right school, passing Regents, all beyond the time limitation of the foster care system.
Young people may take longer than four years in high school to graduate, and as we’ve stuck by them through rough patches and periods of self-doubt, we’ve helped them stay focused on their goals. With this ongoing relationship, we’ve helped 93% of our seniors in our program 2 years or more graduate high school, and we’ve seen 86% of our college students stay in school from one semester to the next. We are still building Graham SLAM and have reached only about 300 of the 1,000 youth we plan to help.
As we aim to help every young person enter a living wage career path by 25, the critical success factors include: developing trusting relationships, believing unconditionally in young people, helping youth meet their emotional and financial needs (for example, through mental health treatment, stable housing, buying books, developing skills and finding employment), connecting youth with positive peer groups, and helping young people articulate and follow their goals and learn to problem solve on their own.
Learn more about Graham SLAM