Every child needs an education advocate—someone to encourage her to learn, to help with her homework and meet with her teachers, to champion her education as key to an independent, fulfilling adulthood.
When children lack such an advocate, the consequences last a lifetime. It is no secret that the odds are stacked against children in foster care and troubled family situations. One study found that nearly a quarter of youth in foster care lack a high school diploma by the time they turn 21. Education failure feeds directly into a high risk of homelessness, inadequate health literacy and care, incarceration and long-term unemployment.
The Educational Excellence Initiative exists to reverse such trends. Children and youth in foster care have experienced great trauma, and as a result of these life altering experiences, are often wise beyond their years. With opportunity and encouragement, they can excel.
Our goal is to link every child with the best schools, support services and enrichment activities New York City has to offer. Forestdale’s educational specialists provide individual counseling and support services, and work with birth and foster parents to advocate for children’s needs at school. Other education supports include in-home tutoring, mental health services and extracurricular activities like music, writing and dance.
With the support of major backers like New Yorkers for Children, we are deepening our commitment to Educational Excellence. Teens are exposed to higher education through biannual college fairs and frequent interstate college tours. In-kind donations from JetBlue Airways facilitated two recent tours to Florida and California. Forestdale students are also involved with innovative organizations like the Posse Foundation and Student Sponsor Partners.
The heightened commitment to education is beginning to pay off. 67% of high school seniors in our foster care program graduated in 2012 (compared with the national average of 50 percent among their peers), and 57% are currently enrolled in college (more than four times the national average). One young woman overcame great adversity to study medicine at Cornell University. Such stories are promising, but they are just the start.