How Believe in Me is Tackling Educational Inequities in the Foster Care System

It’s no secret that children in foster care often face educational disadvantages. Unfortunately, those disadvantages can follow them for the rest of their lives and make reaching success even harder. That’s why at Believe in Me we strive to ensure all children have access to comprehensive and equitable educational opportunities. We understand how important education is to provide these young people with a foundation for future success but also to help them develop strong social skills so they can get back on track after they age out or leave the system. 

Shocking Statistics About the State of Education in the Foster Care System

Foster care, a system intended to provide safety and support for vulnerable children and youths, is sadly failing its participants in many ways. 

  • According to the National Foster Youth Institute, the average foster youth in the United States moves three times within a year and ultimately experiences five different placements before they turn 21. These frequent moves disrupt schooling, making it difficult for them to receive an adequate education. Educational inequities begin early in this population and are further reinforced as children transition through different placements.
  • According to the National Foster Youth Institute, only half of all foster care youth graduate high school on time.
  • Only 3% of foster youth go to college, while their peers without a history in the system are much more likely to pursue higher education.
  • Seventy percent of current and former foster youth experience homelessness at some point within four years after they age out or leave the system.

Something needs to be done to ensure these young people have access to the same educational opportunities as their peers who don’t come from similar backgrounds.

What Can be Done to Bridge the Gap between Foster Kids and Their Education?

Foster care statistics are heartbreaking, and children in foster care often cannot receive the same educational opportunities as their peers. We cannot ignore this reality—we must strive to provide resources and tools for foster youth to succeed academically. Here are some ways we can level the playing field for foster kids.

  • Provide Educational Resources: providing tutoring services and mentorship from experienced professionals who understand their unique challenges can change the life trajectory of children in foster care.
  • Create Educational Opportunities: It’s essential that foster youth have access to educational opportunities that are equal to or even better than those available to their peers. Working with local schools and other organizations to create meaningful programs and pathways for these young people will help them reach their full potential.
  • Educate Caregivers: Recognizing the importance of educating those responsible for caring for foster children so they can better understand the needs of their foster kids and provide them with a nurturing environment that encourages educational success.

Program Attempts to Address Inequities in the Foster Care System

As stated above, frequent foster care placements lead to numerous school transfers, learning disruptions, and emotional insecurity. In fact, by the time foster children age out of the system, over one-third will have experienced five or more school changes. Children are estimated to lose four to six months of academic progress per move. This fact alone puts most children in foster care significantly behind their peers. The lack of community programs to support the educational needs of foster children was the catalyst for Embrace WA to create its Education Program in Spokane, WA. This grant’s one-on-one tutoring helps children in foster care close the significant educational gaps they experience and reach their appropriate grade-level proficiency. 

How Believe in Me is Joining Forces with Embrace WA’s Education Program

Believe in Me has awarded $15,250 to Embrace WA for its Education Program to combat the educational inequities foster youth face. This intensive educational tutoring program is designed to remove barriers to academic success for children in foster care. This Education Program is one-of-a-kind in Spokane and is unique because it directly addresses the fact that disproportionately more students in foster care make less academic progress, frequently fall a grade level or two behind, or drop out altogether. Embrace WA collaborates with the Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF), Sylvan Learning Center, and Mathnasium to identify and provide educational support services for students in foster care. Their education partners offer us a discount so we can assist the maximum number of students throughout the community.

Our Joint Vision to Set Foster Kids Up for Success in 2023

Embrace Washington has the goal to provide educational tutoring for 35 students in foster care who are one or more grade levels behind their peers. They will measure their success by tracking the number of students who receive tutoring and the growth in their Grade Level Equivalence during the 2023 grant cycle. They will be aligning with Sylvan Learning Center and Mathnasium to provide tutoring at a contracted rate. This aligns with their mission of fulfilling the unique needs of children experiencing foster care to build healthy foundations for a brighter future. We expect to meet this goal within the calendar year 2023. Congratulations to Embrace Washington as they embark on a journey to set these kids up for success! 

Getting to the Heart of the Foster Care System: Love

As mentioned in my author bio, I have had experience being a foster child. Now that I have survived the situation in which my birth mother relinquished her five children for adoption, I can celebrate that all five of us had people who opened their homes to us. Not knowing if the experience before us could only be just a few days or an entire lifetime, the families were doing so in the name of love. Regardless of the outcome, tragedy, or crisis from which we came, I can say each of us ran openly, as we always seemed to hold hopes and dreams that this “new home” would provide us with a unique opportunity. 

For this reason, we honor all the foster families that step forward. Here at Believe In Me, we know that the system forgets the human element due to the bureaucracy of the system. Amid training hours, paperwork, court hearings, and doctor’s appointments, the fact that we are dealing with real people who have real struggles and suffer real consequences can be easily forgotten. 

Making Sure Every Kid Develops the Self-Confidence they Need to Succeed

At Believe in Me, our ultimate goal is to create an equitable environment for all children in foster care so they have equal access to education and other resources necessary to lead successful lives. We believe every child deserves an education that sets them up for a bright future, and we’re committed to making sure no child falls through the cracks. By providing comprehensive services tailored specifically for students in foster care, we hope to make a lasting impact on the lives of these young people and help them reach their educational goals!

We invite you to join us on this mission as we work to bridge the gap between foster care and education. Your support will help us continue to provide educational resources and create long-term solutions for those in the system. With your help, we can ensure that all children have the same opportunities for a bright future regardless of their background! Thank you for considering joining us on this journey – together, we can make a difference!

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