According to Child Trends, 402,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care in 2013, for an average of more than two years. May is National Foster Care Month, a month dedicated to parents, family members, volunteers, mentors and other members of the foster care system.
While some kids in the foster care system are fortunate enough to find permanent homes, according to Children’s Rights, 14 percent of foster youth live in group homes. Studies done by the University of Chicago indicate that children who leave care without permanently being linked to a family have higher chances of experiencing homelessness and incarceration.
Foster youth face the danger of being placed into an unfit or abusive household. Some families join the foster care system to provide a home to a child in need while some do it strictly for the foster care reimbursement checks the state provides. As a result, foster kids can be neglected or face moving into another home.
To support current and former students in foster care, Sonoma State University established the Seawolf Scholar in fall 2014. The Seawolf Scholar helps provide year round housing, financial assistance and any other services that foster youth need.
“Seawolf Scholars was established this last semester to provide much needed resources for current and former foster youth on the Sonoma State campus,” said Seawolf Scholar program coordinator Danielle Hansen.
Constantly moving can make a child feel lost and unwanted, which can have a traumatic effect. According to Child Trends, foster kids are likely to be suspended or expelled from school, and to exhibit low levels of engagement and involvement in extracurricular activities.
Due to the stress of living in state care, foster kids are likely to have trouble succeeding in school. According to Children Uniting Nations, less than 3 percent of kids who age out of foster care in the United States go to college. This leaves foster children at a disadvantage when it comes to advancing their education.
Unadopted foster children often find themselves unemployed and homeless. According to Child Uniting Nations, 65 percent emancipate without having a home, and 51 percent are unemployed. The reality is many foster care children are not set up for success, and as a result could end up homeless.
National Foster Care Month began with President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The focus is to give recognition to families that have opened their homes to foster children and to encourage more people to adopt children from the foster care system.
Supporters of National Foster Care Month include The Children’s Bureau, Children Welfare Information Gateway and the National Resource for Permanency and Family Connections. These organizations work to improve the framework of the foster care system while providing children with the care they need.
While most Sonoma State students are not in the position to adopt a foster child, there are other ways students can help. Foster Care to Success is an organization dedicated to providing support to children in the foster care system.
The organization relies on sponsor donations, which go to paying a foster child’s tuition, textbook or care packages of essential supplies sent to their home. Sponsors can also sign up to mentor a foster child and provide the guidance many foster children grow up without.
In honor of National Foster Care Month, students may ask themselves what they could do to support children in the foster care system. Chances are some students at Sonoma State have been part of the foster care system and to them this month may have a special meaning.
National Foster Care Month is dedicated to all of those who make the foster care system possible and to honor the children who grow up in the system.