Foster Care Employment

If You Are in High School
Although working hard in school and getting good grades should be your number one priority while you are in high school, part-time afterschool work has been shown to enhance high school students’ academic experience, improve their time management skills and even improve their grades. If you are 15-17 and in high school, the CFSA Office Well Being and your social worker will work with you to explore career opportunities. This includes helping to find afterschool work and assisting with registration and certification for the Department of Employment Service (DOES) Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) or any of their year-round employment programs for high school students. All DC public school students and students in many Maryland public school systems require that students complete community service and internship hours. You should use these hours to explore jobs or career fields that interest you.
Currently CFSA does not provide any significant employment support while you are in high school but there are resources that are available for all DC youth—please click here for more information. (LINK TO EMPLOYMENT PAGE)  You should take the initiative to talk with your social worker about your career interests and urge them to help you with exploring careers, filling out job applications, writing your resume and learning how to craft cover letters. 
If You Are Out of High School
The CFSA Office of Youth Empowerment (OYE) Career Pathways Unit: Provides vocational and employment services to youth 18-20 who have graduated from high school or received their GED. They will help you whether you are planning to attend college or if you are not currently pursing a college education.
Workforce Readiness Training:  There are weekly workforce readiness sessions hosted at OYE. During these sessions Education Specialists will help you craft an effective resume and cover letters. There are sessions on professional dress  and they will assist you with finding appropriate business attire. The Educational Specialists will also help you build the soft skills (communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, etc.) necessary for career success. Staff will also provide ongoing support while you are working or in a vocational training program.
Finding paid work training: The OYE Career Pathways Unit will connect you with paid work experiences. The first step will be to complete a career interest form and meet with one of the Employment Specialists (see resource section). There are various options for gaining paid work experience such as:

  1. Internships: After you meet with an Employment Specialist they will assist you with finding a private business, government agency or non-profit organization where you can intern. Most internships range between 15 and 25 hours a week.  
  2. DOES Resources: CFSA partners with DOES  to connect youth to their employment programs such as Career Connections and the Youth Earn and Learn Program. These are paid work programs where you can work 15-25 hours a week for 6 to 9 months in private businesses, government agencies or nonprofit organizations.  
  3. Local Non-profits & Government Agencies: There are many non-profits and government agencies that have their own employment programs for young adults. The Career Pathways staff will help you to identify programs.

Unpaid Work Experience: Even work experience that is unpaid can be valuable. You can put these experiences on your resume the same as a paid position. Unpaid work experience includes internships and community service and volunteer assignments. You can also shadow a professional in a field that you are interested.
Vocational Training/Certification Programs: The OYE Career Pathways Unit will also help you to find and enroll in a vocational training program. There are vocational training programs for plumbing, HVAC, cosmetology, barbering, construction and many other areas. There are certification programs for information technology (IT), security, customer service and hospitality. These programs last from one month to two years. The Career Pathways Unit partners with DOES and the UDC Workforce Development and Lifelong Learning program to connect you with employment and vocational training programs.   
It is important to talk with your social worker about your career plans and employment needs. You should be proactive about what employment assistance you need. An important part of your transition preparation process will be career goal planning and you should use this process to explore a variety of career paths—find out what you want to do and what you do not want to do as well. You should start this process as early as possible. Do not wait until you are months away from emancipation to find a job or a training program. In addition to your social worker you should contact the following people for employment assistance: 

  1. Guardian Ad Litem (GAL): You should talk with your GAL about exploring careers and finding a place to intern or work. They will help to connect you with the OYE Career Pathways Unit resources and other available resources. Include link to resource page
  2. OYE Career Pathways Unit: This unit is responsible for providing employment support for youth 18-20 in foster care who have their high school diploma or GED (or who are enrolled in a GED program). They will help you to build your employability skills and prepare for success in the workforce.  Include link to resource page
  3. Court Appointment Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer: You should talk with your CASA volunteer about finding an employment/vocational training program or even finding a job. Include link to resource page
  4. Resource Providers: You should talk with you foster parents or group home/ILP staff about what employment support that they can provide—some group homes and ILPs have their own employment programs for residents. They can connect you with an employment program or a career mentor who can help you to develop your career goals. Include link to resource page
  5. CFSA Youth Ombudsman: If you are making an effort to connect with your support team (social workers, GAL, etc.) and you are still not receiving the employment and career development support that you need then you should contact the Youth Ombudsman so that he can help you with obtaining the support that you need. Include link to resource page