[July 25, 2018] As part of the first annual awards program recognizing organizations for the excellent work they do helping youth transition from foster care to adulthood, six organizations have been named winners in the 2018 Aging Out Institute National Awards competition for its effective strategies helping youth successfully transition to adulthood when they age out of foster care.

The Aging Out Institute (AOI) National Awards Program celebrates the positive impact and influence of nonprofits, government agencies, and social enterprise organizations that work with youth who age out of foster care. In its inaugural year, this awards program will begin identifying and sharing the award winners’ best practices with foster care professionals throughout the world.

“Winning an AOI National Award is a significant accomplishment. With peer judges and tough judging criteria, only the most deserving programs receive recognition,” said Lynn Tonini, Founder and Owner of Aging Out Institute. “The programs that won awards this year were outstanding. We can’t wait to publish the white papers that will describe the award winning strategies for everyone in the foster care field to read, learn from, and even apply in their own organizations.”

This year’s panel of judges included experts and practitioners in the field of foster care and represented the following states: California, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

Entries in four major categories (Education, Employment, Housing, and Relationships) are judged against a stringent set of standards based on research findings. During the judging process, the panel of judges compare the organization’s strategies with those that have been identified in research to be effective helping foster youth transition to independence without a family support system. They also look for innovative and creative concepts, strong execution and program structure, outcome metrics, and the ability to communicate and persuade.

This first year of the AOI National Awards Program applicants included organizations from several different states. After careful consideration, the judges selected the following organizations as the winners of the 2018 National Awards Program (by category):

Education: Great Expectations Program – Virginia

Employment: Sunrise Children’s Services / VentureON Program – Kentucky

Housing: CitySquare / Transition Resource Action Center (TRAC) – Texas

Relationships: UC Riverside Guardian Scholars Program – California

Relationships: Foster Forward / Real Connections Program – Rhode Island

Holistic Services: Roots & Wings – New Jersey

“It is an incredible honor to have our Real Connections Program recognized by the Aging Out Institute (AOI) National Awards Program for our work helping youth in foster care build positive relationships with adult mentors,” said Lisa Guillette, Foster Forward’s Executive Director.  “We are proud that many of our mentors become life-long connections for their mentees and some have become foster and adoptive parents for youth with whom they were matched!”  

Emily Marchese, Executive Director of Roots & Wings, said, “Roots & Wings is honored to be recognized by the Aging Out Institute for its unique and holistic services for aged out foster youth. This award is a great distinction and furthers our ability to share best practices and lessons learned with others serving this population.”

Aging Out Institute is a social enterprise dedicated to connecting the dedicated professionals who work with foster youth with resources and strategies that help youth age out of foster care and into adulthood successfully. Annually, it conducts its AOI National Awards Program and publishes the AOI Higher Education Foster Youth Programs Review. Additional information about Aging Out Institute, its awards program, and membership information can be found on the AOI website at An overview of all the award winners can be found at

: @agingoutinst