FUN FACT MANY OF US, INCLUDING FOSTER KIDS DO NOT KNOW, BUT SHOULD
The John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) offers assistance to help current and former foster care youths achieve self-sufficiency. Grants are offered to States and Tribes who submit a plan to assist youth in a wide variety of areas designed to support a successful transition to adulthood. Activities and programs include, but are not limited to, help with education, employment, financial management, housing, emotional support and assured connections to caring adults for older youth in foster care. The program is intended to serve youth who are likely to remain in foster care until age 18, youth who, after attaining 16 years of age, have left foster care for kinship guardianship or adoption, and young adults ages 18-21 who have “aged out” of the foster care system.
The Educational and Training Vouchers Program (ETV) for Youths Aging out of Foster Care was added to the CFCIP in 2002. ETV provides resources specifically to meet the education and training needs of youth aging out of foster care. In addition to the existing authorization of $140 million for the CFCIP program, the law authorizes $60 million for payments to States and Tribes for post secondary educational and training vouchers for youth likely to experience difficulty as they transition to adulthood after the age of 18. This program makes available vouchers of up to $5,000 per year per youth for post secondary education and training for eligible youth.
It is time to change the conversation! Instead of prepping kids to work minimal wage jobs after foster care, why are we not finding ways for educational mentors to help aged out or adopted, older once foster children get the education they need to thrive?
Many folks think they know what goes through your mind when you adopt a teen. Often it’s the loss of a baby, first words, and first step and so on. For me none of that mattered, Mike was my baby from day one. Okay a 5 foot five baby with face scruff but still. Actually one of the first things that went through my mind was this; he is 16, holy crap we have no college savings!
Kids in foster care even despite the best efforts of some great caseworkers get a lot of things mismanaged; meds, homes, visits, and therapists just to name a few. Education also gets left flapping in the wind and at a price to these kids. Many of these kids simply cannot keep their grades up. Between changes in schools frequently, under diagnosed learning disabilities, piss poor IEPS that to manage behavior not really help the child learn and well, the apathy that sets into these kids, it stomps the drive right out of them. Most aging out classes talk about finding a job but never a career. Most of these kids by the 10th grade do not see themselves being college graduates or trade school graduates.
My son had over 7 different schools while in foster care. His IEP ( indivualized learning plan ) was anything but. It had other kid’s names on it! Proof that it was a one size fits all foster kid IEP. It was mostly about Mike and his behaviors, very little focus on his reading disability that once he was with us within weeks was diagnosed as Dyslexia. He had a great caseworker, however his foster parents and schools were never in communication. I did homework with him via Skype because his foster parents never pushed him to do school work. When he came to us he had credits but mismanaged. Because he was a “troubled” kid with bad grades he never got electives, we now have him taking a college class to get his fine arts in for graduation. Because no one ever planned his classes from one foster care to another and because he believed his life ended at a fast food joint in the middle of nowhere North Dakota, Mikes first 2 years of high school sucked. With all his straight A’s now, he will still not have a 3.0 cumulative, which excludes him from many 4 year colleges as a freshman; he will have to go as a transfer. It’s disappointing for him we know, but he has his family to help him. Our life right now is FASA, SAT’s, Chafee , OSAC and other scholarships. As a family we have a plan to get him to the 4 year degree and career he wants.
How does a kid aging out of care, all alone, know that they can fill out a FASA for federal aid and as a former foster child does not need to declare anyone else’s income? How do they know each state receives Chafee funds that are in forms of grants or tuition waivers? How do they do this on the street with no address or crashing without a computer? It is maddening! With 20,000 plus kids aging out of foster care each year, what if we got them into school for at least a 2 year degree or technical certificate? What if these kids not only found education but support and new peer groups? What if they learned they are smarter then they were given credit for? Would we see homeless rates, incarnation rates and teen pregnancies go down, I bet they would. Is it cheaper to hire folks to walk these kids through this process them build new jails, you bet.
So I often write this blog without an ask. Today I have an ask. Start posting this link in your social media: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/chafee-foster-care-program
We post pictures of cats and inspirational quotes and what we ate for dinner. If you add this link, your post could get passed on to a foster child who needs college. Your post could be the answer. This is how we start the conversation; this is how we start the reformation. We take action. We stand up and say these children are our children. ALL of our children.