Transitioning from Foster Care to College with a CASA Advocate
For teenagers who’ve lived in foster care, the transition to adult life outside of care can be an intimidating experience. These young people may face challenges as they search for affordable housing, pursue higher education or training, look for jobs, manage on tight budgets, take care of their health needs, and even shop for groceries or household needs.
For many young adults, living on one’s own can be extremely demanding—from navigating paperwork necessary for insurance or taxes to managing a multitude of other new responsibilities. In today’s society, many young people remain dependent on their families for a greater length of time. Generally speaking, youth transitioning from foster care lack the safety nets and support networks their peers may possess. For them, the challenges can be even greater.
Statistics show that 25% of these youths transitioning from foster care will experience homelessness. They are more likely to drop out of school and report mental health issues, such as PTSD. Over 40% of males formerly in foster care will have contact with the criminal justice system. A whopping 47% will face unemployment. Less that 3% will earn a college degree. In fact, these young people are 14 times less likely to complete college. Despite these troubling figures, there is a promising momentum as we work to increase positive outcomes.
CASA is implementing programs to help these young adults (defined as 14-21 years) make this monumental change in their lives. Our objective is to help direct them in setting goals like completing college, assist them in identifying the steps to achieve those goals and concentrate on success in the future. The role of the Advocate does not change, but we hope to add an element of guidance to our efforts.
The roles of advocate and guide are similar but not exactly the same. As a guide, we coach, listen, advise, and provide them with opportunities to learn and practice new skills. As an Advocate, we fight for the youth’s rights relating to education, health and mental health care, court proceedings, and case practices—and in general support him or her. Assisting a young man or woman to elect to pursue higher education may be an important emerging role of the Advocate as a “guide”.
During this time, young people are exploring who they are and who they want to be. Three of the critical areas upon which we focus are identity, life skills, and education. Education is a key in obtaining employment…and factors into fulfillment. Our training program for CASA Advocates in this new guidance function targets:
- Discovering – What are my strengths?
- Thinking – What are my interests?
- Reflecting – What can I do? What do I want to change?
- Planning – How can I reach my goals?
- Performing – How am I doing?
At the end of the day, our hope is that this young adult will believe in his or her abilities to the extent that they will seek a degree or additional training.
Research has proven that youth are more likely to succeed if they are exposed to protective factors. We plan to help buffer the risks and improve the likelihood of future positive outcomes. By supporting these youths in this difficult period, we hope to change the course of their lives and see a rise in the number of former foster care youths with a college degree.
Would you like to join us in helping one more youth succeed in the transition to become an educated, successful, and productive adult in our community?