Campus life and making the decision to attend college can be a daunting one, but for most it is something that has been discussed with parents, grandparents and friends before ever finishing high school.
For a select few that is not the case.
For foster children who do not have the parental or family support, college may have never crossed their mind, or they simply never anticipated attending college let alone succeeding.
Frequently, the reality of the life of a foster child after care leads to unemployment, underemployment and homelessness. The possibility of a college education for a youth from foster care gives them the opportunity to change the cycle of abuse and poverty, the opportunity to succeed in life.
Anna Moreshead, a graduate student with the school of social work here at Boise State, is working with the Dean of Students, Chris Wuthrich, the school of social work, and community partners on a pilot program to assist former youth of foster care to be successful in college.
The pilot program will hopefully be called Guardian Scholars, and is the model which has been proposed to the university with the hope the university will support these efforts and it will be fully implemented. Due to the fact the program is still in its pilot stage, no advertising or outreach can occur just yet, but Moreshead is dedicated to assisting the former foster youth in any way she can at the time.
Wuthrich has supplied her with an office space where she currently spends 10 hours a week dedicated to piloting the program. She works another 20 hours a week with both Casey Family Programs and the Department of Health and Welfare.
When asked what Moreshead’s goals were for the program, she explained through services, the overall goal is to have and help more youth from care come and graduate from college.
She went on to say, “Whatever it takes to support students in their efforts of that is what I want to do”
The statistics for foster youth graduates are disheartening.
Nationally only 10 percent of foster youth enroll in post-secondary education after care and of that 10 percent, only three percent complete a degree. Each year in Idaho about 200 youth age out of care, which means about 30 will attend college and less than two will graduate.
The underlying hope and goals within the pilot program is to work toward changing these statistics here in Idaho by providing services and general support to students who desperately need it.
There are hundreds of programs like this around the nation. A few of the more prominent colleges are UC Riverside, which championed this idea, and did it so well now every university and community college in California has a program.
There is also Western Michigan’s program called the Seita Scholars, UW’s program called Champions and ISU just started a program this fall as well.
The services for the students can range anywhere from completely covering tuition and housing, to lower costs for housing and priority for not only housing but for registering for classes. Arguably, the most valuable aspect of this potential program is the support and listening ear of someone on campus who cares.
In an anonymous survey taken at Boise State regarding foster care, students said they were interested in basics.
They wanted to meet one another for peer support, and mentioned they would like support with from the program in the forms of academic support, career planning, financial aid support and mentoring.
“A consistent person to care that they had a test and ask them how it goes,” Moreshead said. “Things like that,” she goes on to say that, “the feedback that I have gotten is that it is very helpful to have someone that they know, that they can always come to and ask questions. A little more of a mentoring role, and a consistent person to care.”