Fostering Success for All!

May is National Foster Care Month. While many of us are celebrating College Decision Day and high school graduations, not all of our students have the support and preparation they need to make college possible. Students from foster care are among the most vulnerable student population, and unfortunately, their education outcomes reflect this. National studies tell us that only 50 percent of these students will receive their high school diploma; 20 percent will make it to college; and roughly 4 percent will earn an Associate’s Degree. A mere 3 percent will receive their Bachelor’s degree by age 26. We all know that a college degree or high quality certification is an essential part of ending the cycle of poverty, so it begs the question, what can we do to help our students in foster care overcome these odds and realize their education dreams?FosteringSuccess

Fortunately for Michigan’s students in foster care, there is hope! In 2012, through a generous donation from The Kresge Foundation, Western Michigan University and the Havirmill Foundation, Fostering Success Michigan was launched as a statewide initiative of Western Michigan University’s Center for Fostering Success. The mission of Fostering Success Michigan is to increase access and success in the education to career pipeline for students from foster care in Michigan. In a joint effort with MCAN and other college access partners in Michigan, Fostering Success Michigan has adopted the Lumina Big Goal - working to increase college attainment for students to 60 percent by the year 2025. While there is a lot of work remaining to reach that goal, Fostering Success Michigan has made great strides in the last three years, including helping to increase the number of campus-based support programs for students who experience foster care. This strategy has shown increased graduation success, from five campus-based support programs in 2012 to 14 in 2015.

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Utilizing Collective Impact framework, Fostering Success Michigan partners closely with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Department of Treasury, educators, students, and others, providing resources, support, and networking activities focused on insulating the education to career pipeline. Because of the continued partnership and collaboration by Fostering Success Michigan’s engaged partners, we are seeing an increased percentage of students from foster care utilizing financial resources like the Education Training Voucher and the Fostering Futures Scholarship. However, to fully support the educational goals of students who experience foster care, we need you to join the Fostering Success Michigan Network!

Educators and those working to support college access play a huge role in helping students from foster care become college ready. Fostering Success Michigan would like to partner with you, and provide the resources and information you need to effectively support these students. There are three easy steps you can take right now, to engage with the work of Fostering Success Michigan and support our students as they make their way to and through postsecondary education:

  1. Know your resources: Visit FosteringSuccessMichigan.com and browse through more than 400 resources geared toward supporting students who experience foster care. These resources include the FSM Guide Series which provides information on maximizing financial aid, summaries of campus-based support programs, and more. The Fostering Success Michigan resource website also has recordings of past webinars, blogs by students who have experienced foster care, and a toolkit created specifically for educators and education staff.
  2. Partner with case workers, foster parents and kinship caregivers to support students: There are many adults involved in the life of a student who is in foster care. When planning events at your school or community organization, remember to use inclusive language, ensuring that those supportive adults feel welcome. Some educators have expressed concern about whom they are allowed to share information with, given that the student in foster care may not have contact with a parent. In 2013 President Obama signed the Uninterrupted Scholars Act adding child welfare agencies to the list of approved entities that can access a student’s academic record. As an educator you can be a great advocate by engaging caregivers and professionals in the student’s academic experience.
  3. Use person-first language: Foster care is an experience, not a definition. It is important to remember that students who experience foster care are students, children, youth, and young adults FIRST. Engage your students as individuals understanding that the experience of foster care varies person-to-person. Trust may take longer to develop with a student who has experienced foster care, but developing a supportive relationship based on who they are as an individual is the key. 

Hopefully you find these tips helpful as you work to support the students who experience foster care in your community. Remember, while we pause to focus on foster care one month out of the year, our students who experience foster care need your support year-round. We hope you will join the Fostering Success Michigan Network and help support our students in foster care as they work toward their education and career goals!

D68EE938-5600-499C-A0E5-D3842E9E5287 picmonkeyed 2Guest Author: Maddy Day, MSW, Director of Outreach and Training, Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University

Posted: May 5, 2015

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