The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services issued a joint letter that draws attention to the difficulties foster youth face when it comes to achieving higher education.
It also provides information about resources and guidance designed to support educators, child welfare professionals, and others in their work to improve the educational outcomes of foster youth. At Foster Skills, we developed an online resource for foster youth to learn about educational opportunities.
In Massachusetts, The Home for Little Wanderers helped to create a program at Bridgewater State University that provides wrap around services to foster youth. Recently they had their first cohort graduate. Similarly, Dr. John Seita and Dr. Angelique Day -- two successful former foster youth -- created college access and retention programs for foster youth at their respective alma maters in Michigan.
In California, Promise2Kids has helped to champion the Guardian Scholars Program because they believe youth should have better educational outcomes. Since the organization's inception, Promise2Kids has provided over 200 scholarships and boast an 85 percent college graduation rate compared to a national rate of 3 percent. In addition, New Yorkers For Children has leveraged the power of the fashion industry and raised millions of dollars in scholarship money for New York City's college bound foster youth.
While we must champion access to education, it is important to note that most foster youth can not focus on learning without having their basic needs met first. Many of the foster youth I know have dropped out of college because they needed to pay their bills, unfortunately government subsidies often times were not enough. This is why Foster Skills received the mentorship of Year Up and is piloting a program with the fiscal sponsorship of Northeastern University intended to help older foster youth become career ready. Recently, I helped Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and State Rep. Gloria Fox put together a PSA that supports innovative efforts to create multiple career pathways for vulnerable youth whom age out of foster care.