The first day of school is always met with mixed emotions at my house. While we all enjoy the unstructured days of summer, we also look forward to the productive schedule that a school day brings. Each year we sit down and discuss goals for the upcoming school year. This year both of my boys are in high school so those goals have become more important. Going to college is a priority for them so they know they need to work hard and stay focused. My husband and I make this easier for them by providing a stress-free home environment, healthy meals/snacks, homework assistance and lots of encouragement.
Unfortunately, these can be the very elements missing in the life of foster youth. Children are placed into foster care to remove them from an unsafe or unhealthy environment. While the goal is always to reunite the child with their family, it is more common for the child to bounce from one foster home to another. With each move, these children are forced to forge new relationships and attend new schools. Quite often, the teachers are not even aware that they have a foster child in their classroom needing additional attention. This is not an environment conducive to learning.
Just how serious are the challenges facing foster youth in the school system? Consider these statistics:
Graduation rate for high school is 70% nationwide, the graduation rate for foster children drops to 50% (U.S. Department of Education, 2000)
The percentage of foster children are behind at least one grade level, foster children are twice as likely to drop out of school as their peers (Indiana Department of Child Services, 2012)
The percent of former foster children get a college degree, compared to 24 percent of the general population. (Indiana Department of Child Services, 2012)
7th Grade Level
Youth in foster care who had completed the 10th or 11th grades were reading, on average, at only a seventh grade level. (2004, Chapin Hall, the Educational status of Foster Children)
Only 50 percent of foster youth graduate from high school. (2013, National Working Group on Foster Care and Education)
Fortunately, these statistics have not gone unnoticed. A new bill was proposed this year called the Uninterrupted Scholars Act. This bill was designed solely for the benefit of our foster youth.
These children face enough challenges without having to add education to their burdens. Join me in praying for our foster youth. Pray for God to lift up leaders with a voice to advocate for children living in foster care. They deserve an equal opportunity when it comes to academic success. And a little encouragement goes a long way!