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Funding proposed to expand program raising graduation rates among foster care kids

When Treehouse started the program in 2013, the four-year graduation rate for kids in foster care in Washington state was 36%. It has now increased to 53%.

SEATTLE — Within Governor Jay Inslee's proposed $70 billion budget is $6 million set aside to help increase the graduation rate of kids in foster care, with the goal to expand the Graduation Success Program through the non-profit Treehouse.

19-year-old Dulce Gonzalez-Rodriguez used to be in foster care and is a graduate of the program. School was challenging for Dulce, as she had to move to different areas and was living out of shelters and foster homes. But she said the education specialist she was paired with through the program helped her tremendously.

“She has just a big support in my life,” said Gonzalez-Rodriguez. “I definitely would not have graduated without her.”

When Treehouse started its Graduation Success Program in 2013, the four-year graduation rate in Washington state among kids in foster care was 36%. That has now increased to 53%.

“It's a huge change,” said Lynda Hall, director of Policy and Government Relations. “So, imagine what that would look like if we started that sixth grader and kept them engaged in school.”

Hall said right now they only have funding to serve kids in eighth grade and up. But if their funding in the Governor's budget is approved, they will be able to expand the program to allow kids to start in sixth grade. Treehouse said this would help an estimated additional 1,000 kids.

“It would be a big intervention and it would help probably increase our four-year graduation rate if we did that,” said Hall.

As Dulce’s story continues to the next chapter, she hopes other kids in foster care can have the same kind of support she had through school.

“I feel like if some of the kids in middle school got that, they would be doing really great,” said Hall.

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