#7: Helping Foster Youth Get Advanced Degrees
The Imprint is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program, a group of 11 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.
The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C.
Today we highlight the recommendation of Makayla James, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky School of Social Work.
Congress should research the prevalence with which former foster youth pursue advanced college degrees, and develop a demonstration program for statewide organizations that support them in those efforts.
The existing data on academic achievement among youth who age out of foster care shows that only a small percentage go on to obtain degrees from a four-year university. James argues that intentional efforts should be made to support those who do and wish to continue to pursue advanced degrees. Doing so will benefit the social safety net, she writes: Among students who participated in University of California-Davis’ Guardian Professions Program, which helps foster youth continue on in academics after a bachelor’s degree, 57% said they wanted the advanced degree to enter “helping” professions.
In Their Own Words
“…I struggled tremendously to address the barriers in obtaining admission into graduate programs, including financial challenges, lack of access to prep courses, and help in navigating the application process. As a current MSW student and aspiring law student, I know that this fight for equal opportunity to higher education is far from over.”
The Imprint’s Take
James deftly adapts a famous quote by former President George W. Bush in describing the “unjust narrative of low expectations” for older foster youth when it comes to education. About a quarter of American students obtain a 4-year degree; the biggest studies of youth who enter adulthood from foster care show that well under 10% of them do the same. Less clear in the knowledge base is how foster youth who are reunified, or placed into adoptions or guardianship arrangements, fare in college.James’ recommendation for a demonstration program is a good one. State programs assisting current and former foster youth on campus have existed on dozens of California campuses for more than a decade (Guardian Scholars); more recently, former participants in the Foster Youth Internship Program helped get a statewide support program off the ground in Connecticut. So there are certainly different models that a demonstration program could help to proliferate to other states that have done little, or nothing, to help move foster youth on campus to a four-year degree and beyond.