How Care Can Help or Hurt Our Education
By Natalie K.
I was in the 7th grade when my single mother died and I was put into foster care. Before then, I usually did very well in school, and this tragedy did not stop my good school performance. My friends, counselors and teachers used to tell me, "Wow, I'm really impressed with how you managed to keep your grades up!" But for some kids, entering foster care doesn't mean focusing on their education, it actually becomes the end of their education. Maybe since they don't live with their parents they figure they don't have to go to school. Maybe they can't concentrate on school due to the problems they have in care and not living with their birth parents. Or maybe they move around constantly from home to home and school to school and never get a chance to settle down in school. GEDs and Drop Outs At my agency, one kid in care I know cuts school every day to sell drugs. The pregnant girls there are always dropping out of school. Some who were in the GED program dropped out of that. My foster brother smokes weed every day and has a bad record with the cops due to his illegal job of making used Metrocards work again. He got kicked out of one school when they caught him smoking. When he was in school, he cut a lot. "Put me in school, and give me one more chance," he told the social worker after he got kicked out.'I Wish I Went to School'
"But you don't ever go to school. Besides, your record is so bad that no schools want you," another one of my foster brothers said. And it's true. I think all these kids are making a big mistake. Education is very important. The big moneymaking jobs are looking for people with college degrees. Even a high school diploma or a GED can get you somewhere. Without one of these you're really not going to get anywhere unless you become famous in the music or movie business, which happens to just about no one. I do believe that it is going to hurt them later on in life. Especially when they're poor and can't get a good job, they'll be saying, "I wish I would have gone to school."School Was a Getaway
When I first went into foster care, I hated going home to a house full of children I didn't know. I hated how some of them used to steal from me. I hated that I couldn't go home to my mother anymore, and that my foster home was nothing like home. I never got the love I had with my mother in my foster home. I used to walk by my old home after school and think, "Damn, I wish I could go in there just like before." For me, going to school was kind of like a getaway from my new foster care life without my mother. School was something in my life that was consistent. Also seeing my old friends at school was helpful. Foster care made me focus on my goals, like going to college, earlier than most kids. That's because I knew once I left foster care, I wouldn't have my mother to help me out. But also, foster care gave me some advantages that I wouldn't have had living with my mother. There wasn't a chance that I was going to college before I went into foster care since we didn't have that kind of money. But now, the agency will pay for my college education, which could be thousands of dollars. My goals are to graduate from Murry Bergtraum High School and go to college in New York City-where I now live-while living in my own apartment from the agency. Since I am so determined to meet my goals and take advantage of the opportunities that foster care does offer kids, it is hard for me to understand why so many other foster kids don't seem to worry about their future, and don't care about their education.An Issue on School And the System
This issue of Foster Care Youth United explores some of the problems foster care kids face when it comes to getting a good education. It also shows how some kids, like me, actually become more focused on their education once they enter the system. Hopefully these stories will help you consider how getting a good education can be made easier for all foster kids. We need an education badly so that we can get good jobs to support ourselves. After all, once we leave the system we're really on our own.
"Reprinted with permission from Foster Care Youth United, Copyright 200X by Youth Communication/New York Center, Inc. (www.youthcomm.org)."