This Jim Casey infographic takes a look at the aging out situation; highlighting the steep consequences of stopping care at 18. It estimates that taxpayers pay $300,000 in social costs (public assistance, incarceration, lost wages, etc.) for every young person who ages out of the foster care system. Given that roughly 26,000 youths age out each year, that’s almost $8 billion a year – a staggering price tag. But Jim Casey also proposes a promising solution that is based on extending high-quality care to the age of 21. The plan focuses on helping these youths build lasting relationships and teaching them how to direct their own future. Find out more in the Success Beyond 18 report.
Here at Blavin Scholars, we work hard every day to help make college possible for youth aging out of foster care. We know that helping these kids succeed requires far more than just financial assistance; these young people need daily support, encouragement, inspiration, love and hope to make it all the way through college. That’s why our program provides dedicated on-campus professionals, faculty mentors, and dedicated alumni to help these kids succeed. But we are not the only ones making a difference in this area – thankfully there are many great programs, like Fostering Success Michigan, to help those who have aged out make it through college.
Fostering Success Michigan is a statewide initiative that aims to increase awareness, access and success in higher education and post-college careers for youth and alumni of foster care. According to their interactive map – developed with Casey Family Programs – Michigan and California are the top two states providing postsecondary support to young people who have experienced time in foster care. We are proud to be on this map in both Arizona and Michigan and we hope to see many more dots added in the coming years.
The Blavin Scholars program is so much more than just a college scholarship program. Our initiative includes a network of additional support resources for students including housing, room supplies, academic guidance, and mentorship. Assisting these students in various ways is critical to help ensure their success, and mentoring is probably one of the most critical components.
Being a mentor for youth who have aged out of foster care can drastically change their outcomes. And these older kids often feel especially alone without family or other connections. Faced with an overwhelming array of decisions to make once they age out, a mentor can make all the difference, but what makes a good mentor? We really like the five elements described in this article Five Keys for Effective Mentoring.
This article lists these five key elements:
- That there are any “right” ways to set up a mentoring relationship
- The mentors need to commit for the long-term
- Properly match mentees with mentors
- Recruiting, training and supporting your mentor network
- Starting small
For us, #2 is probably one of the most important of these five elements – committing for the long-term. Foster care youth have often had a long history of no one sticking around. From their family of origin to multiple foster families, these kids have typically moved around a lot and have failed to make lasting connections with an adult. Being a good mentor means making the personal commitment to stay with that youth for the long haul to show them they can count on you. That one element could be the difference between their future success and failure.
Here at Blavin Scholars, we know how important it is for young people to earn a college degree. We expanded on this topic in our September blog entitled “Why We Are Passionate About Higher Education.”
We recently came upon a great article that further explains why earning a college degree is so important. Written by James Link, executive director of enrollment services for Cornerstone University’s Professional & Graduate Studies programs, this well-written article lays out six compelling statistics supporting higher education. Check it out here.
There is no arguing that a college education is a tremendous asset to an individual. Attending college is one of the most beneficial investments a person can make on both a financial and personal level. Sadly, those who have aged out of foster care have the lowest college graduation rate of any demographic group in the country – just 3 percent will earn a college degree.
A recent study by researchers at University of the Pacific looked at the college experience for youth who have aged out of foster care. Researches followed seven foster kids over as they made their way through community college in California. The study is among the few to focus on the actual experience of foster youth in college. The study revealed three major challenges for these kids
- Poor computer skills
- Lack of outside financial support
- Confusion about how to transfer to a 4-year school
The study concluded that foster youth could benefit greatly from a structured support system.
“Informal programs are less likely to work since foster youth lack guidance and have learned to rely on structured institutional programs,” said study co-author Melinda Westland, a graduate student at University of the Pacific’s Gladys L. Benerd School of Education.
“Simply having a dedicated person whom foster youth can go to and ask questions — something many of these young people have never had — could really make a difference to their college success,” she added.
Here at Blavin Scholars, we couldn’t agree more. That’s why our program focuses on supporting and mentoring foster care youth throughout the college process. We help, support, guide and mentor them every step of the way to give them the greatest chance of making it all the way through. And, because college costs involve so much more than just tuition, we also provide ongoing financial support. Our program is built on a foundation of structured support; we are there to help them enroll at the beginning and we’re there when they stand up on that stage to receive their degree. With 25 graduates and an over 90% graduation rate from the University of Michigan, we are making a difference for foster care youth.