What is The High School-to-College Journey for Kids in Foster Care?

College students on campus

We have been discussing graduations as we experience the end of a school year. Many of our students have been planning to go to college. In fact, most spend a great deal of time visiting colleges with family members and making the all-important decision as to what university is best for their particular major and their preferred college interest. It is a time of planning, assessment, anticipation and much excitement.

The story is very different for students who have been in in foster care. They are exiting the foster care system once they turn 18. Research tells us that without support, young adults with foster care experience are less likely to attend, persist, and succeed in higher education.

While over 70% of older youth in foster care aspire to go to college, they attend at less than half the rate of their peers. And most who do attend do not make it past their first year. As every year of education mitigates poor outcomes it is hard to make higher education an effective experience.

For many foster kids their experience within the foster care system is not an enriching one. In fact, they have a higher level of adverse child experiences while in foster care. They are left with legacies of memories and experiences that have left them dysregulated and working through a myriad of mental health issues.

The simple reality is that they have no one to support them, finance them, mentor them or even have anyone to go home to on the breaks. They are essentially alone facing the complexity of college life without support and a landing place.

There is a rising movement of organizations that are training and supporting mentors for these students. Lakeside Global Institute has provided trauma and related training to organizations who are working with these students all over the nation. We feel very privileged to be helping these wonderful individuals who are standing with and supporting students who are experiencing college life with all of its challenges. It is such a meaningful and essential mission for those students who have no family and little other support in their lives. 

It is a way to create family-like support from caring people who have made themselves available for this valuable cause to those who are attempting to overcome the obstacles in their past and turn them into opportunities for their future. I admire their courage and hope that more organizations emerge to create a system of care for graduates of high school and of foster care.

Gerry Vassar


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