Do you remember report card pick-up day? Maybe you remember a feeling of dread or the wish that your parents would just forget to go. To foster children who age out of the system, there usually isn’t the option of having a parent attend school orientation or PTA or an advocator who speaks to their teachers on their behalf. They are alone.
Studies show that nearly 50% of children in foster care fail to graduate from high school. With all of the trauma and uncertainty these children have faced, it is no surprise that there is little incentive for them to focus on their education. And without a high school degree, there is little hope that they will become self-sustaining adults. Education not only supports economic success in adult life, it also provides opportunities for improved well-being in physical, intellectual, and social domains during critical developmental periods.
In most cases, when youth age out of the foster system they are still in high school because most foster children are behind after being placed in multiple schools throughout their school career and missing school due to the numerous appointments they need to attend – and all of this without family support. There is overwhelming evidence that children and youth in care are a highly vulnerable population in our public education system. The achievement gap between youth in care and the general population is staggering, with youth in care trailing their peers in standardized test performance, high school graduation rates and likelihood of attaining post-secondary education.
What makes Genesis Hopeful Haven’s Transitional Living different is that when youth age out, we fill in the gaps of service. We provide a home-like environment, serve as a parent role model for each youth and design an individualized program to help them flourish. We attended senior orientation this school year as well as parent teacher meetings. It’s amazing to see all of the things we’ve been able to learn through these meetings. If we didn’t attend, there’s so much information we would be missing out on that would assist us in supporting our boys. Students with involved parents or other caregivers earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, and show improved behavior. It’s unfortunate, but it’s almost like the system is designed for foster children to fail. Even something that I never appreciated as a child, like attending parent-teacher meetings, brings joy to a foster boy who has aged out and didn’t think he would ever find support. Ensuring that they get the tutoring needed, assisting them with college preparation such as studying for SATs, following up to make sure they complete their homework and checking their grades on school portal – these are all things that children need in order to thrive in school. The power of accountability makes a difference in all of our lives – how much more for these kids who yearn for a connection with someone who cares? We wish we were able to assist more youth who don’t get the support they deserve once they age out. Education is the key to a brighter future and without it, our foster youth will continue down the path of struggling. We need all the help we can get to help more boys succeed. Be apart of our journey as we continue the quest to Build Genesis.