ALUMNI RECOMMENDATIONS AND STATEMENTS ON EDUCATIONAL NEEDS OF PEOPLE IN AND FROM FOSTER CARE
At Foster Care Alumni of America, we have heard several clear messages from the alumni community about the educational needs of people in and from foster care.
- With issues around education, or nearly any other topic that affects youth in care, our top priority as alumni is this: we need safe, loving, stable, permanent families. With each disruption in our lives, we lose the relationships we’ve built, some of the foundational skills we’ve been working on academically, and our momentum. We also lose the will and ability to concentrate, some of our hope, and the sense that our effort is meaningful.
- When placement changes are necessary, we need to maintain stability in as many of the other areas of our lives as possible. This especially pertains to school—each transfer from one school to another is difficult for us, and often harmful.
- Many of us have received special education services that we didn’t need…and many of us did not receive special services that we did need. When special services are needed, it is sometimes treated as a character defect, a lack of motivation to succeed, or a side-effect of family instability rather than as a learning disability.
- It is a common experience for us to have uneven experience, knowledge and skill in academic areas. We need help to build on our strong areas and address challenges.
- We want and need to participate in extracurricular activities. Finding areas of mastery through arts, sports, forensics, student government, and other opportunities gives us a sense of control, a feeling of competence, and a community to belong to.
- We want the same things our peers have—to go to prom, to be in and own a yearbook, to participate in field trips, to look and dress like our peers. We want to have the freedom to get in a little bit of trouble, serve our detention time and then be done with it (without having to talk about it in court or to get a new goal in our case plan).
- We need to hear things like, “I’m proud of you”, “you did great”, “you are so smart (or talented, or brave, or strong, or determined)”. And we need those statements to be true.
- We need access to a broad range of higher education opportunities. We want the freedom to access supports like aptitude assessments, career counseling, and tuition waivers well into adulthood. We are not always ready to be successful in higher education at the point of transition out of foster care given all of the competing priorities we must learn to juggle.
- There are many parts of education that people with family privilege are often able to take for granted. These include:
- I can assume that I will go to the same school with most of the same teachers and most of the same peers next year that I go to this year.
- I have a family that will hold me accountable for my success and my behavior in school. School is important in my home and the adults in my life do all they can to support me in doing well.
- I know and trust the people in my life well enough to ask for help when I need it, to celebrate my victories with, and to support me in making important educational decisions. There is at least one adult in my family who personally identifies with my success or failure and is invested in my educational success.
- The adults in my home do all they can to create the stability that allows me the emotional, psychological and physical strength I need to focus on learning.
- I grew up knowing that I could, and should, go to college. I had my parents to help me in filling out my FAFSA and applications, and in deciding where to go.
- I know that my educational achievements and permission to be a child are among the most important concerns in my life.
Want to get involved in educational topics?
FCAA has recently established online blogs and forums where our members can discuss topics, learn about resources (like scholarships, grants, support for completing your FAFSA), and provide support for one another. We are looking for members who are current or former college students to write about your experiences as a first semester student! What challenges did you face? Were there things that were especially helpful to you? How did you perservere? What do you wish someone had told you about? Please visit our forums and talk about it!
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