I came across some alarming statistics this morning while reading about foster care and the long term effects it has on children.
When a child ‘ages out’ of the system, they are emancipated and are free to the adult world like any other individual – completely responsible for their own welfare and well-being.
But, what happens to foster youth who emancipate (age out) from the system?
- 65% emancipate without a place to live
- Less than 3% go to college
- 51% are unemployed
- Emancipated females are 4 times more likely to receive public assistance than the general population
- In any given year, foster children compromise less than 0.3% of the state’s population, and yet 40% of persons living in homeless shelters are former foster children. A similarly disproportionate percentage of the nation’s prison population is comprised of former foster youth
*Statistics from Childrenunitingnations.org
It shouldn’t be this way. Programs can be and are implemented to provide guidance, assistance and support to youth in the foster care system.
I found a fantastic example of one in Texas. Read on:
Lone Star College, a leader in foster care youth education, hosts Texas Reach Conference
Lone Star College-University Park recently hosted the fourth annual Texas Reach Conference in early June to empower Texans to champion post-secondary success for foster youth and alumni.
The two-day conference entitled, “From Foster Care to College” attracted more than 200 registrants from colleges and agencies throughout the nation, in addition to foster care alumni (former foster youth) and foster parents.
The goal of Texas REACH is to inform state agencies that specialize in foster care work about the programs and resources available for those about to age out of foster care (typically 18 years old) to obtain degrees and certificates in higher education.
Dr. Richard Carpenter, chancellor of the Lone Star College System, was the keynote speaker on the first day of the conference. “Research shows that 80 percent of foster care students hope to achieve some formal education past high school, said Carpenter. “The realistic fact is that only two percent actually obtain a college degree or certificate. We need to work to change this for this important student demographic and this conference is just one way for key players to meet and give ideas on how we can help these students become successful.”
Shah Ardalan, president of LSC-University Park welcomed and thanked the attendees. “We are glad to host such a meaningful conference here at LSC-University Park,” said Ardalan. “Lone Star College-University Park cares about all students. Students can come here starting at six-weeks old at the YMCA Children’s Academy at University Park, stay and earn a master’s degree and then continue to park in the same spot when they work at one of our business partner locations. You can grow-up and retire at LSC-University Park.”
The second day’s keynote address was given by Dr. John Seita, who has dedicated his life to teaching and training current and future social workers about the challenges and strengths of young people who are aging out of the foster care system.
Dr. Seita, associate professor at Michigan State University, author and scholar, understands the challenges facing foster youth who are aging out of the foster care system. At the age of eight years old, he was removed from his mother’s home and spent the remainder of his childhood and adolescence in multiple foster homes, detention facilities, group care settings and on the streets. He lived in 15 out-of-home placements during his journey through care.According to research from the Seita Scholars Program at Western Michigan University, “The event of aging out of foster care forces foster youth into an abrupt transition into independence and adulthood. There is a huge gap between the expectations of college life and the readiness of foster youth to meet the academic, social and financial expectations of higher education. By definition, foster youth who age out of the system do not have permanency or legal ties to family or guardians, and so are released from the system to make it on their own. Most are unaware that they lack many privileges that put them at a distinct disadvantage for success in adulthood in general, and higher education achievement in particular.” (Seita et al. April 2010)Dr. Seita stressed the importance of what academic institutions need to do to help foster children develop a successful pathway to college. Part of the overall goal is to increase opportunity for foster youth to pursue higher education and to provide supports that promote success and well-being throughout the college experience.
Please find the original link to the story here: Lone Star College, a leader in foster care youth education, hosts Texas Reach Conference.
It can be done. As with anything, the support of a community and a drive for success will prove beneficial to every cause. It is a foster child’s right and our responsibility to make sure they are given the same opportunities as any young adult.
CASA of CGS strives to not only make sure abused and neglected children are placed in safe, permanent homes, but is constantly looking for and acting on ways to improve the quality of life and potential for a greater future for families.
Thoughts, comments, questions? Email me, JennKaysen@gmail.com
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