Foster youth deserve a chance to get an education as much as any other child but they face unique challenges. The schools that youth in foster care attend are often among the lowest-performing, foster students are more likely to be “old” for their grade level, and to perform poorly on standardized tests. Even if foster youth enroll in college, they are less likely to graduate with a degree than their non-foster peers. With these challenges facing the foster care system today, there are five vital ways we can support the youth and help them gain an education.
1. Dropout Prevention – One of the biggest challenges facing foster students is staying in school. Programs like First Things First and Twelve Together work to keep youth engaged in their classes with the hope that the students will reach graduation. With increasing class sizes and little to no support at home foster care students are in need of more one-on-one attention in order to be successful.
2. At-Risk Student Intervention – Instead of targeting the entire student body, interventions focused specifically on at-risk students can be tailored to their individual needs. While they are in foster care, youth continue to lag behind their peers academically, making customized care especially important.
3. Summer Enrichment – Every student looks forward to summer. However, non-foster children are often enrolled in activities and camps that continue to improve their learning, even if the activities are not academically oriented. Foster students can benefit greatly by monthly follow up and motivational training. Life skill instruction and workshops help students and their caregivers to navigate the complexities of gaining a higher education.
4. School Day Intervention – Helping students after school can be beneficial but programs that support students throughout their school day increase the overall presence of support in the student’s life. College counselors can help students to create an academic plan, including specific goals. They also provide educational advocacy and act as a personal mentor as they follow students for six years through home and school placement changes.
5. Academic Advising – The idea of attending college is intimidating, especially for foster students who lack the example and support from family. With academic advising they can have that consistent support to encourage them towards a higher degree. Having access to academic advising helps students receive information about the college application process and associated costs.
Once accepted and enrolled into a program, students can have a positive experience, thanks to these programs that help them be successful in their academic careers.