NEW YORK, January 20, 2012 — A growing number of colleges around the country are providing special support services for students who have spent time in the American foster care system.
Public colleges and universities in California are in the forefront of this movement and have piloted innovative programs designed to help former foster care youth succeed in their studies. (About 25 percent of all children in foster care live in the state of California.)
The first program in California began in Fullerton in 1998. Today, there are 79 campuses in the state system that offers some type of assistance to students. This assistance ranges from providing year-round housing opportunities to offering targeted scholarships to dedicating mentoring resources to giving out winter clothing.
The reason initiatives like these are so important is because foster care youth typically “age out” of the system by 18. More often than not, when they are released from the system they are left without any support, financial and otherwise, thrusting them into homelessness and poverty. In fact, statistics from the state of California show that when 65 percent of youth leave the foster care system they do so with no place to live.
A few states, like Michigan and California, have begun address the state’s termination of support, extending care up to 21 years old. The hope is that in states like these foster care youth will be able to use those additional years of support to help them get through college and career training like their counterparts.
Programs that help support foster care youth while they are in college are critically important to their success. Although 70 percent of those aging out of the foster care system plan to attend college, only three to 11 percent ever complete their bachelor’s degree, according to a recent study by the Casey Family Foundation.
That’s why other states around the country, like West Virginia and Oregon, have begun addressing this serious issue through support programs for these students.
Yes, programs like these take initiative and some tax dollars, but the pay off is big. When former foster care youth go on to live successful, productive lives, everyone succeeds.
Andrea is an adoptive mother and a journalist. She is at work on a book, “The Red Thread,” a collection of stories told by families united through adoption. She is also owner of Media Branding International, a public relations/media consulting firm. She is the editor of Food & Travel in The Communities at The Washington Times.
Follow Andrea at Twitter @ANDPOE. Andrea can also be found on Facebook and LinkedIn.
She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and and online media.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.