There are multiple challenges that interfere with a foster youth’s education, including lack of stable housing, mental health issues, and lack of consistent employment. Youth who have experienced foster care have to pay for college by themselves without being taught how to handle money or budget properly. Foster youth come off as hardworking and resilient, but they’re barely surviving. While going to college full time, some are either working full time or working multiple part-time jobs. It isn’t easy to learn how to pay your bills and go to college.
I’m still struggling as a 20-year-old college student who has lived experience in foster care. I am learning how to budget everything by myself. I am also learning how to pay my car payment, phone bill, car insurance, tuition, gas, and buy food all on a very low income. I am learning how to balance school, work, and a social life. I don’t know how to fit everything in my schedule.
This all can lead to depression, isolation, and anxiety. When everything feels like it’s crumbling, I tend to not want to do anything or talk to anyone. But then, I remember that I have to continue working to keep everything from falling apart. It’s hard to figure out how to handle the anxiety since I wasn’t shown any healthy coping skills. Yes, most schools have counseling services that can be used, but most people don’t have the time or the mental capacity to go to therapy.
On top of all this, foster youth have to be able to do homework, study, eat and sleep. There is not enough time in a day to get everything done that needs to get done. We try our hardest, but there is no way that it is completely possible. We are not able to save money for anything due to having to pay for everything else. I am only able to save money for a week before something comes up that I have to pay for.
Saving money to pay for college was a problem for me for years until Minnesota’s Department of Higher Education passed a bill that will cover the cost of college for youth who were in Minnesota foster care after their 13th birthday. This is really helpful because some youth have not been able to go to college because of the cost. I am glad that this new bill passed because it will help me greatly. Now, because of the financial assistance, I am able to pay my bills on time, pay off debt, actually save money, do things I want with friends, and be able to afford to live. Struggling with my finances has really affected me because I was not able to go about my day without having to pay for something. I was falling into a pit that I couldn’t get out of, and I was really tired. I was too tired to do anything which was affecting my success in school. I was able to get out of that hole because of this new bill.
Not all youth who were in foster care have this advantage, though. Some of them are homeless or in jail. There are some youth I know that are moving from place to place and from family member to family member, just so they can be under a roof. This bill won’t help them. They still won’t be able to go to college because they don’t know where they are staying next. There are way too many “what’s next” for them. Most youth in foster care are always planning for the worst and are continuously pulling themselves out of holes. There will also be youth that won’t fit the requirements because they are doing classes part time, doing online classes, or don’t go to an institution that opted in for this new financial support.
Minnesota has not made this perfect. This new bill has only gone into effect this year. It is a work in progress. I hope the state is able to figure it out so that other youth who were in foster care are able to get help.
Other news outlets don’t cover child welfare and juvenile justice like we do.
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