Youth in foster care often have traumatic histories that put them at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues throughout their lives.
These emotional, developmental, and behavioral issues can also affect their lifetime school experiences, including their attainment of a college degree, which can have long-term implications on lifetime earnings. According to a 2014 report by the National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, while 84% of foster youth ages 17 to 18 want to go to college, only 20% actually go on to receive post-secondary education.
As a parent, you can help your foster child realize his or her desire for continued education and help your child build a solid foundation for growth throughout life. The Child Welfare Information Gateway suggests that foster parents can do a lot to empower youth to make independent decisions by gradually increasing their responsibilities, setting long-term goals, and recognizing their successes. Giving foster youth the opportunity to take control and learn from their actions helps them fully take ownership of their lives as adults. Teaching your youth everyday skills like money management, shopping, cooking, and chores is also valuable.
You can help your foster child build a strong foundation from childhood through young adulthood. When your child is young, make sure you are informed of his or her history of trauma and listen to and address any fears that are raised. Help your foster child with schoolwork, and teach them relationship-building skills. Throughout their adolescence, talk to your child about their mental health, and help them locate any additional needed resources they need, including school resources. Last, as your foster youth grows into a young adult, talk to him or her about how to manage their medications for continued mental wellness.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, youth are more likely to succeed when they have close relationships with caring adults. Whether your foster youth goes to a traditional college, pursues vocational education, or enters the workforce, your strong, permanent relationship with him/her will help your foster child live a better life, beyond home.
Fostering Success in Education: National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster Care
Mental Health Services for Children Placed in Foster Care: An Overview of Current Challenges
Helping Youth Transition to Adulthood: Guidance for Foster Parents