Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Children's Rights and Foster Care Alumni Ask the Nation to #FosterMyEducation
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Annual Storytelling Campaign Amplifies Accounts of Attaining Education in State Care

(New York, NY) - May is a month marked by students celebrating academic feats and achievements. However, May is also National Foster Care Awareness Month, and for the more than 670,000 who spend time in U.S. foster care every year, the outcomes are far less certain.

Launching May 1, Children's Rights' 5th Annual Fostering the Future campaign aims to "school" the nation on the drastic educational differences children experience in, and after, foster care. The statistics are grim: less than 60 percent of young people who age out of foster care graduate high school by age 19 -- compared to almost 90 percent of all young people. College is even less likely as only 4 percent of foster youth who age out of care graduate from a four-year college by age 26.

Each week during the month of May, Children's Rights will feature a new thematic "subject" and corresponding first-person stories from foster youth discussing Graduation, School Attendance, Survival Skills and Mentors. Harnessing the power of digital storytelling - including a PSA with Grammy Award-winning music producer Swizz Beatz and foster care alumni from FosterClub, as well as first-person blogs, youth-produced video content and several shorts from comedian and former foster youth, Monroe Martin - Fostering the Future 2017 is a platform that amplifies the voices of young people from across the country who, far too often, go unheard.
While some foster youth speak of the role models who prioritized education in their lives ("Having foster parents that not only told me, but showed me that I was capable of going to college ... put me on a trajectory toward a strong academic future," writes Samanthya), others find that simply finishing high school was a real challenge:

"Ironically, going to court and advocating for myself to stay at the same school meant that I had to miss a bunch of school...Do I tell my teachers I'm a foster youth in order to avoid getting zeros on all my missed tests and homework assignments, or do I try to keep the very little privacy I have?" Ariella shares.
"Attending eight schools made it hard to keep up with learning and retaining information. I had to adjust to new school, new people and new environments, so I never had a true foundation. When it came to transitioning to each grade level I felt I missed so much because one school was teaching something totally different than the other," writes Nyeelah.
For some children in foster care, early childhood trauma is only exacerbated with frequent placement moves, multiple schools and a lack of proper mental health care and emotional support as they struggle to fit in. College proves even more challenging, or even impossible, with the lack of financial and parental support. From here, young people don't always fare well: just over a third of youth who age out of care find themselves homeless or couch surfing, and even more -- including up to 74 percent of young men -- are incarcerated at some point.

"As a society, we are failing thousands of our most vulnerable children," said Sandy Santana, executive director of Children's Rights. "When young people in foster care face multiple barriers to accessing their educations, it is unconscionable. The young adults who comprise Fostering the Future know better than anyone else the changes that must be made, and it is they who should lead the nation's discourse on foster care. We are honored to share their voices."

As part of Fostering the Future 2017, Children's Rights will track advocacy efforts around foster care and education and, through its daily website posts, will prime citizens to take action. The organization will also highlight legislation that stands to make positive change for children in care, including H.R.1757, the Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act of 2017. Recently introduced by Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL), this bill will incentivize trauma-informed teaching curriculums to prepare teachers to work in alternative education settings where high populations of traumatized students are enrolled.
Throughout the month of May, the public and the press can read, watch and highlight young people's stories by visiting fosteringthefuture.com and following Children's Rights on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

"Young people in care often experience lower academic achievement, higher rates of grade retention, higher chronic absence and higher dropout rates," explains Celeste Bodner of FosterClub, a Fostering the Future 2017 partner. "As an organization that empowers foster youth to advocate on their own behalf, we are thrilled to be a part of a campaign that's turning this unacceptable and unfair reality into a national conversation that inspires systemic change."

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Every day, children are harmed by America's broken child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. Through strategic advocacy and legal action, Children's Rights holds governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Since 1995, the non-profit has secured court orders to achieve critical reforms in more than a dozen child welfare systems throughout the country, and has helped hundreds of thousands of children. www.childrensrights.org