EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Illinois DCFS Office of Education and Transition discussed its college assistance programs to school counselors attending a conference at Illinois Central College.

DCFS partners with state public universities and community colleges to provide assistance with applications, tuition and fee waivers, and scholarships offered to youth in DCFS care, those who aged out of care, or went to adoption.

“It’s a great opportunity for our youth to pursue an education and feel supported, and get those resources they need on campus…My goal is here today is to make sure I educate all the participants about these programs that DCFS can offer to students,” said Kim Peck, downstate administration for DCFS Office of Education and Transition.

Partner institutions offer on-campus mentoring programs and DCFS liaisons to support students in care or experiencing homelessness. Peck said although many DCFS youth move on to college, many struggle to complete their education.

“It’s needing those on-campus supports, those on-campus resources to feel included. That’s why we’ve started this collaboration with these campuses across the state.  To have these mentoring programs where there will be peer mentors of other youth on campus with lived experiences and care. So they can feel included and supported by their own peers,” she said.

Peck said DCFS awarded 250 scholarships last year. Scholarships include a $1,5000 housing stipend, tuition and fee waiver, Illinois medical card, books, and school supplies. Many recipients often move on to graduate school or law school, often reaching out to tell the office how grateful they are.

“It’s very rewarding, it encourages us and it pushes us on to continue to help these students because that’s what DCFS is here for. We are here for these students, we are here for our youth in care because every student deserves a chance to pursue a post-secondary education and to feel supported while doing so,” she said.

Applications for the 2024-2024 school year scholarship will be available in January. Peck said they hope to award more scholarships next year.