Children in Foster Care Deserve Better Educational Outcomes
Tiffany Haddish, the breakout comedic star of 2018, often uses the pain and abuse that she endured as a result of being in and out of the foster care system as material for her comedy routines. She found a way to use comedy as a form of therapy, and her willingness to be open and authentic has gained her a legion of devoted fans. However, for the estimated 518,00 American children in foster care, life after aging out of the system is not a fairy tale.
For a multitude of reasons, foster care children have been removed from the homes of their birth parents or legal guardians and placed under state care. The best-case scenario involves these children being returned to their birth families or placed up for adoption. The worst-case scenario sees these children placed in long-term foster care.
Unfortunately, foster care children are more likely than the general public to become homeless, incarcerated, or dependent on state services. Many foster care children experience a horrific transition from foster care into the real world, kicked out once they become of legal age and expected to figure the rest out. Many of them have poor educational backgrounds, and when juxtaposed with their peers, they have lower standardized test scores and higher absenteeism, tardiness, truancy, and dropout rates.
Ask yourself, if you spent your formative years in the foster care system and were expected to transition to the real world without life skills, a place to stay, or any support or guidance, how would you fare? Many of us wouldn’t last one week on our own, and probably would end up in a homeless shelter or incarcerated.
What should be the government’s response?
Government agencies and lawmakers should revamp the foster care system to provide top-notch services, educational opportunities, and support to foster care children while they are in the system. We must understand that the most important thing that they need is better learning outcomes, which will help them make a smoother transition once they are in the real world.
However, policymakers need to be aware of and mitigate the issues that foster care children commonly experience in the education and child welfare systems. These problems include a lack of stability, consistently low expectations, lack of adult advocacy, poor life-skills training, lack of educator responsiveness to their special education needs, and cultural insensitivities. We need to fully understand these issues to develop reforms that improve educational opportunities for children in foster care.
I am also of the opinion that former foster care children should receive full-scholarships to the college of their choice. These children have been through so much, the least that we could do is help them get a head start on life by paying for college. They must work hard to gain admission and show adequate progress, but as long as they do that, we should foot the bill.
Also, they should receive a stipend that allows them to pay for housing, clothing, food, and other essentials while they are attending college. Sure, this could be expensive, but you know what else is expensive; incarcerating prisoners and funding the welfare system. I would rather empower former foster care children to transcend their situation and become productive members of society, as opposed to becoming prisoners or individual’s dependent on the welfare system.
Foster care children are given a tough lot in life. They are more likely to experience poor life outcomes than the general population. Adults who were placed in foster care as children are more likely than the rest of the population to be homeless, unemployed, and dependent on welfare. They are also more likely to be incarcerated, to abuse drugs and alcohol, and to suffer from physical or mental health issues.
None of this is their fault, and we owe to them to help them grow up to be successful, well-adjusted adults. Policymakers and education advocates should be working feverishly to improve education opportunities for foster care children by expanding their education options. This will ensure that foster care children across the U.S. receive a high-quality education that prepares them for a successful transition into adulthood.