The month of May has, for twenty seven years now, been observed as National Foster Care Month in the United States. The main goals of Foster Care Month are:
- To raise awareness of Foster Care issues
- To motivate others to help foster care and foster children succeed
- To create a positive framework that maintains the progress made during the month of May for the rest of the year.
California has the largest share of foster children in the nation at about 55,000, and the number continues to grow every year.
The majority of children that enter the system due to general neglect, and/or some form of abuse will have suffer a degree of trauma. They are angry, confused, scared, and they have little to no trust in adults.
Kids like Julio*, whose parents were drug abusers. His father lost his job due to disability, and his mother was working unskilled minimum wage casual jobs. He turned to his older brothers for guidance, but was led into a bad crowd. He ditched school, became violent, and was eventually placed in a group home when he got into trouble with the police.
Due to the trauma they have experienced many find it difficult to settle in foster or group homes and an already bad situation can become much worse. It is not at all unusual for kids to transfer in and out of different schools ten times or more. Only 54% of foster children graduate from high school.
Foster kids comprise 0.3% of the population, and yet about 40% of the homeless shelters populations are former foster children. The system will only support the kids up to the age of 18. After that, they are entirely alone, and at risk of becoming involved in drugs, or victims of human trafficking and other criminal activity. About 65% of these children age out of the system with nowhere to go. At best they can hope for a life of minimum wage jobs and constant poverty. History repeats itself, and we as a society have to carry the burden that results from this.
As an education-based company, REACH is committed to the goals of National Foster Month by helping foster children lift themselves up and into better circumstances through education, giving them the opportunity of a brighter future.
Only 34% of foster children are at grade level in Math. The high school dropout rate of foster kids is more than double the statewide average. There is an invisible achievement gap that dictates foster kids academic performance is likely to be way lower than their peers, with lower attendance rates and higher likelihood of placement in failing schools.
Of the 3% who even make it as far as college most go there with next to nothing – no emotional or financial support, no one to depend on for advice or counsel, nowhere to go if there is a problem. That even 1% finally manage to graduate is a miracle.
So what can be done for these kids?
In 2013 the laws changed, allowing social services departments and school districts to collaborate and for the first time, share information that will help chart a path for these kids through the school system that previously had been protected by privacy laws.
One positive aspect of this change has been developing individual learning paths to graduation for these kids, and granting them access to counselors and tutors who can help them.
When a foster child sits down with a tutor for the first time, it may also be the first time someone has taken an interest in what they are doing; in HOW they are doing – and an interest in helping them do it better. It may be the first extended hand they have received, that they can grasp onto, to help them get up and out of their situation.
Teachers who tutor foster kids are a special breed. They are not just concerned with academic performance. Trained to deal with the special sensitivities of this group, they become a trusted friend, a mentor and a guide. They bridge the gap between the child and the level of adult they have come to distrust and fear so much. They provide a catalyst for learning AND healing to start to take place.
Why is this so important to us? Because rescuing these kids from a future of poverty, drug abuse and crime stops the vicious circle. Giving them their self esteem helps them to become everything they are capable of becoming. Lessening crime and poverty benefits our society as a whole. And above all, because it`s the right thing to do.b
REACH operates a Foster Youth program led by a highly experienced professional educator with first-hand knowledge of the foster system, having himself been shuffled through many different homes and schools. Now, as a teacher, mentor, and volunteer with youth groups in the San Jose and San Francisco area, Andrew is uniquely experienced and qualified to lead a team of teachers specially trained to understand and meet the needs of this special group of students.
Our ONE FACE program ensures that the same handpicked teacher works with each student from pre assessment, through tutoring and post assessment, in order to build a stronger trust relationship and support quicker academic progress.
Julio* is now studying an arts major at CSU Fullerton. He credits his tutor and mentor, James*, with helping him to see the light, guide him on to the right path and keep him going, up and away from the trouble he used to be in. He has given him his self- confidence, rebuilt his trust and in doing so has given him the chance of a future inconceivable to him just a short few years ago.
Julio is one of a growing number of success stories that academic intervention is building now that different government agencies are sharing resources. REACH is proud to be a part of a system shaping a brighter future for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
*Names and certain details have been changed for privacy.