Over the past month we have given you many first-person accounts from foster youth discussing the obstacles they faced on the path to higher education as part of #FosterMyEducation. Now, as Fostering the Future 2017 wraps up, we’ve collected accounts and perspectives of academics from across the country who are working towards bridging the gap between foster youth and higher education. Read now and discover why #FosterMyEducation was only the first step towards building a brighter future for America’s foster youth. Click “Daily Spotlilght” for the whole story.
Meet Barbara and read her story about lessons learned as Fostering the Future 2017 wraps up today! “I was okay with my status for the most part. “I’m a foster kid,” I would tell my friends and my teacher. “I’m in foster care,” was comfortable for me to say. I gave a few presentations on my personal experiences to my classmates, which precipitated my advocacy work.
But after a while, my personal safety and well-being would impact my academics. I honestly don’t know how I managed school work and keeping up with my peers during my first eight years in foster care. I was in homes that were emotionally and physically abusive, which left me with an undercurrent of low self-worth and perfectionism born out of a fear of messing up and a desire to be loved unconditionally. I wish the schools I attended realized that when I forgot my homework, it was because I was thinking of my home life, and my life was full of anxiety.
Those times I forgot my homework cost me dearly because I would be inappropriately punished in my foster homes. The cycle of forgetting my homework would bring on abuse at home. Learning was impossible because mistakes became dangerous. The anxiety would cause me to zone out at school entirely, which meant that I would fall behind. I had a lot of potential, but the emotional toll of balancing my academics and personal safety was a big burden to carry.” Click “Daily Spotlight” to read her whole story.
Getting an education, learning life skills, and growing up can be tough enough. Now imagine doing all of that as a foster youth. Comedian and foster alum Monroe Martin jokes about how he never learned the simple things such as budgeting while in foster care and how that led him to have 22 pairs of sneakers one summer (without owning a pillow!) Watch now!
Survial Skills 101 wraps up with Raven’s story today: “In my opinion, everyone has the right to be successful. In order for youth in foster care to be successful we must remove the stigma of being labeled incapable of performing academically, socially and economically because we are in the child welfare system. If anything, young people who survive the foster care system have demonstrated that they have the ability to overcome extraordinary circumstances. If provided the resources and support to attend the colleges they dream of attending — even a top college if accepted — they will succeed.
I am now working towards a bachelor’s degree with a double major and minor, am a member of one of the largest historically black Greek sororities in the nation- Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, am the Vice President of all the historically black Greek organizations at my university, am on the Executive Committee for the SUNY Albany chapter of the NAACP, am an ambassador to promote higher education for youth, and also work for the Office of Children and Family Services.” Click “Daily Spotlight” to read all of Raven’s story.
Survival Skills week continues with Cherish’s story. Learn about all that she endured within the foster care system and discover how she endured all of it. “I went through so many experiences, my memory had been impaired to the point that I had no timeline of the things that occurred in my life—memories seemed to bleed into each other. I didn’t have pictures or a recollection of memories reinforced throughout my childhood because even they were scattered among the multiple people and places I had bounced between.
Still, thanks to the kindness of a friend and her family, I was able to fight my way through and finish high school. My early adulthood was spent trying to put the pieces of my life together so it could make sense, give me some frame of reference, and help me find me, find who Cherish was. I had to read about a lot of my life in foster care from documents that I requested when I was 18. It is funny having to learn about yourself through written assessments from workers who visited you for not even an hour a month, if they showed up at all.
Then there was my release. I had finally grown out of the system. I found my birth parents, and while they weren’t what I expected, I learned to forgive and I have a relationship with each of them. I was blessed with a full ride to a Big Ten school. I became the first in my family to complete high school, college and graduate studies. I work in the field that I felt kidnapped and imprisoned me, to make a difference and represent hope for children who feel unloved and marred by negative experiences. I was just like them, but I was determined I WOULD NOT be another statistic, or represent the demeaning title of ‘state ward’ or ‘system child.'” Click “Daily Spotlight” to read her entire story.
Congressman Danny K. Davis from Illinois’ 7th Congressional District has been a stalwart supporter of foster youth rights since he came to office in 1996. In this piece Davis calls for our government and educational institutions to recognize the needs of foster youth. and trauma-informed education reform at large. “Far too many foster youth emancipate from the child welfare system with no high school diploma, and no option to pursue a post-secondary credential. Education is a fundamental human right for all citizens of the United States. Education is the key to success – the key to economic success, social success, and societal success. Currently, foster youth do not enjoy equal access to education, and we must change that.
For this reason, I steadfastly advocate to improve the educational well-being of foster youth. As we reauthorize the Higher Education Act this year, we have an opportunity to better prepare K-12 teachers to work with foster and other traumatized youth. We must improve our policies to support foster youth to complete college and pursue stable and meaningful careers.”
Click “Daily Spotlight” and read the rest of Rep. Davis’ post now.
It’s Survival Skills 101 Week for #FosterMyEducation. Meet Kurt and learn how he recovered from the tragic loss of his foster father, eventually refocused his priorities onto his college education, and is now a proud husband and father, who also is serving and protecting the community of Wayne State University as a police officer. “However, at my last foster home, my foster father tried his best to push me and prepare me to be successful. He took me out to eat and talked with me about my future, took me to play golf, and would just take time to mentor me. It was the first time in a long time that I trusted someone, so it was devastating when he passed away before I graduated high school. In the blink of an eye he was gone. After his death I lost my sense of direction. I did not have anyone else to step up, mentor me and push me. I graduated, but became homeless and “couch surfed” briefly. When I enrolled in college it was because of the dormitories – I needed a more stable place to call home. But I did not apply myself … It wasn’t until I was about to get kicked out for bad grades that I applied myself. I realized that my past was not entirely my fault, but my future was completely up to me.” Click “Daily Spotlight” and read his whole story.
Today LaTasha helps us kick off the theme for Week Four of Fostering the Future: Survival Skills 101. “I was never adopted, and I grew up feeling that no one ever really wanted or loved me. As result, I spent my entire childhood and the majority of my adult life drifting in and out of relationships, and struggling to grasp the concepts of life, love, trust and, most of all, family. The scariest part about being in foster care for me was turning 18. The average kid cannot wait to turn eighteen, graduate from high school and get ready for their journey to college or to travel down that brave road to adulthood. However, by the time I turned 18, the road to college was a distant memory.”
Click “Daily Spotlight” to read all of LaTasha’s story.
“I saw just how teachers and professors could use the skill of understanding and mindfulness to take weight of foster youth’s shoulders. I saw how a simple gesture and blatant concern for a student could transform an entire way of life, and that set my soul on fire.” Click “Daily Spotlight” to read Isabelle’s story.
Although our stories herald from different parts of the country (Michigan, New York, Washington) our experiences seem to be more similar than different. All three of us chose school as the venue to cope with the aftermath of placement moves and family losses. All three of us had schools where we received positive affirmations and support at the K-12 and higher education levels, with A+ mentors within the schools we attended. …We know that our experiences aren’t emblematic of what everyone encounters in foster care. The statistics speak for themselves. Click “Daily Spotlight” to read their story.