• Percentage of former foster children incarcerated since age 17: Males: 64 percent, Females: 32.5 percent
• Percentage of former foster children who experience homelessness after aging out of the system: 24 percent
• Percentage of former foster children who are unemployed five years after aging out of system: 53.5 percent.
In Los Angeles, Latino children represent roughly 60 percent of youth supervised by the county’s Department of Children and Family Services. That’s a 20 percent increase since 2000.
College bound foster kids
Of late, activists and educators have taken special interest in the adult life of foster children, with burgeoning programs attempting to change their future for the better once they are no longer wards of the state.
First Star is an advocacy group attempting to improve the lives of abused and neglected children by strengthening their rights, illuminating systemic failures and instigating reforms.
He added, “Coming from abused and neglected childhoods, they have no expectation of success, no support system to help them academically, no successful role models and no reason to believe they can succeed. There is nothing the matter with the kids.”
Slowly inroads are being made around the country. Take for instance at UCLA, where roughly half a decade ago the college began identifying and focusing specific support catered to foster students with the Guardian Scholars program.
Today there are 250 such students, some have aged out while others remain in the foster system, attending the university.
“The University of California has a responsibility and an opportunity to do good work with these students,” UCLA Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Janina Montero told VOXXI. “They really need not only the typical kind of services that all students need, but also a lot of attention such as tutoring or advising or attention in terms of academic programs and so forth.”
“These kids very much need a sense of community, a sense of permanence, reliable advisors and reliable guidance so they can be attended to in a holistic way as opposed to the individual problem that may be causing them to seek out help in a particular moment.”
The Guardian Scholars program
Montero said the Guardian Scholars program offers not only support groups comprised of staff and students but also year-round housing, which is integral in keeping the foster care students engaged and focused in their academics.
Last year the Guardian Scholars program graduated 20 students, who all are currently attending graduate school. The Guardian Scholars appears to be working, with 65 percent of students graduating in four years and 80 percent graduating in five years.
Now there are also efforts to target foster kids in high school. The First Star UCLA Summer Guardian Academy began in earnest in 2011 as a way to level the playing field for foster youth in Los Angeles.
The four-week comprehensive introductory college immersion program targets 9th through 12th grade students by providing two to four undergraduate academic course credits, motivational training, comprehensive life skills instruction, a caring adult network, young adult mentorship, monthly on-campus follow-up programs and more.
“The Summer Academy offers a supportive residential educational program, strategically located on a university campus and delivers an excellent chance at college and a major step towards a fulfilling future,” Paulsen said.
Overall, Montero said Guardian Scholars is being looked at not only in California, where more than 30 community and four-year colleges have started similar programs, but also nationally.
“We are on the way to a very stable and sustainable program for former foster youth,” Montero said. “I think if you look at what other institutions may find, it’s really attention to a handful of kids who fall into a category that they don’t know are out there.”
Paulsen added, “None of this is rocket science, but nobody previously harnessed the nation’s universities, a resource hiding in plain sight, to address the needs of foster youth in high school.”