Thursday, October 30, 2014

Foster Teens Cut Off from College Entry Programs

So the question was asked by Marlena Krueger, "It's wonderful that the majority of foster kids want to attend college. Are there any existing programs to help them achieve this? The short answer is "yes", but that doesn't touch on the dismal reality for thousands of foster teens.

There are many programs to help teens in general and some to help foster teenagers specifically. Just in Time for Foster Youth is a San Diego non-profit that helps foster teens to get into and pay for college. There are many other programs such as Reality Changers, again in San Diego. They have an outstanding track record for working with student so they win scholarships to top level colleges such as Dartmouth and Harvard. And I would be remiss not to include PIQE and the Eva Longoria Foundation.

However, there are structural problems with many programs that can and do essentially exclude foster youth. Reality Changers has students come to their facility after school to do homework and then to get training so they can successfully go for scholarships. This is no slight against the program. As a past guest and speaker, I can say that the organization has the highest level of quality.

Having said that, though, someone has to deliver the student to the facility for an ongoing commitment. Most foster kids are not in a home situation where the foster parent will be this active. Many foster children are just happy to have some stability in their lives such as not changing homes for the year. So, yes, Reality Changers works (and very well), but foster children would not be ideal candidates.

A similarly focused program exists with PIQE, another outstanding non-profit dedicated to helping high school students get into college. The PIQE method is focused on parents getting trained so they can help their children successfully go through the entrance and finance process. Again, many foster teenagers are not greeted by an adult who asks them how their day was at school or helps the child with their homework. It can happen, but it's unrealistic to believe that the majority of foster parents are spending quality time helping their foster child get into college. Foster child education statistics show that this is clearly not happening at a alarming level that should be considered an educational crisis.
And finally let's talk about a new and active organization, the Eva Longoria Foundation. It's dedicated to helping Latina teenagers get into college. Again this is no slight to Eva or her foundation. She should be applauded for taking her fame and wealth and using it to help Latinas. But when I spoke with the foundation, they explained that they presently do not have anything in place to specifically help Latina foster teenagers. Could some get into the program? It's possible, but if there are foster teens in the program, they are either choosing not to identify themselves as being in foster care (completely understandable but that's another post) or there are not enough to have caught the attention of the foundation.

So the answer to the question is a huge "yes." There are programs that could help foster teens to continue their education and go onto college. Programs like Just In Time for Foster Youth are successful. Sadly, though, there are real obstacles preventing foster children from taking advantage of more than a handful of programs. Until more foster parents step up who have a deep care for their foster kids including helping them to stay in school, we will continue to see sickening educational statistics for foster kids.

One proven way to help all foster teenagers to stay in school is to support a service that locates their family members. Foster youth who are placed with relatives generally do better in school, graduate, enter college and earn their four-year degree at more than double the rate of children placed in foster homes. Our organization is launching a crowdfunding campaign Nov. 10 to raise funds for our foster children caseload for 2015. We invite you to be part of the solution.

The solution is not complex, but getting there will take more than just the failing educational and foster care systems.


Richard Villasana

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico

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