The term foster care is used to imply a system wherein children or young people who have been neglected, abused or who are unable to live with their families are placed on a temporary basis by the department of children, until a permanent residency can be established. Foster care can take the forms of foster homes, institutions or families, but in general, they are private homes of specific state licensed caregivers who are referred to as the foster parents. Their main aim is to provide a secure, homelike and encouraging environment for children and young people who need care for a time–either short term or long term, before they can be returned home. However, this rarely happens and most end up staying at their foster homes even for years, which most normally leave at the age of eighteen.
There are several pros and cons of the foster youth and their education. Through this form of education–K-12, it helps instill good qualities in the young minds. Youth being the stage of life where dreams and ideas are built, anticipation is kindled, and a bright future is foreseen. It is that point in life where children turn into energetic and confident individuals. Therefore, through the foster youth education and career path, the youth get to understand themselves, discover their talents and grab chances in a bid to pursue success. This system of education serves as the means of bringing about the preferred transformation in society. This ensures that society develops a generation of virtuous people, hence contributing to the growth of good individuals by fostering ethical values. (Chideya, 2010)
The basic function of education is to gain knowledge, instill good conduct and getting practical know-how. Therefore, since education provides a way to grow oneself mentally, physically and socially, then it is important for the foster children to be educated too. This importance of the youths being educated presents itself in terms of the need to nurture the youths into mature individuals of society. With the youth being their growing stage, then education is essential for the youths as it is the time to nurture the values of life, make career choices and pursuing one's ambitions.
The foster children education system also has its problems. Owing to the large number of children in the foster care system in the United States, theses children are in dire need of high-quality public education, which his hard to provide. Since the children are placed in state custody because they experienced ill-treatment, disregard or cannot stay safely at home. The foster children have to depend on the existing education system, to present encouraging role models, other than the caretakers in the homes. Therefore, the education system fails the children in a big way, as it is their source of knowledge and inspiration.
These kids also rely on the educational system to offer interaction that other children get through their families and friends. However, this is never possible as the only family that most of the foster children ever get to know in their youth is the caretakers and the other children they stay with in the homes. Consequently, they are in a way deprived of the family relationships that other children enjoy, an element which the education system does not cater for.
The foster children depend wholly on the education system to offer them the educational chances they require to make it in life. Unfortunately, most never get kind of education they need. They are repeatedly moved from placement to another, school to school, which leads to extended absenteeism from school. Due to the frequent moving, cases of missing records and scarce special education services. The foster children are unduly channeled into inferior and substitute schools and as a result they denied the educational chances they are expected to get. This in turn has dire consequences on these kids as compared to their peers. The foster children are more probable to have higher rates of absenteeism and disciplinary recommendations, performing below average level, drop out of secondary school or not go for higher education.
When in-home-cares or out-of-home cares, the foster youth experience further educational barriers towards accessing and attaining higher education, most of which their peers not living in foster homes face. Therefore, in turn only a small number of foster youths get to pursue any kind of higher education. Because of such obstacles as not completing high school and also only a few of the foster youth are willing to go on to higher education levels after completing high school. Hence owing to these reasons, they do not gain access to higher education and therefore they do not become college qualified and neither do they complete a degree. This in effect creates a big gap in post high school educational participation between foster youths and their peers. According to statistics from data collected from various regions and states. It is illustrated that only about ten percent of the youths between the ages of 18 and 24 who have experienced the foster care system, do participate in formal employment or college education after high school. It is also revealed that only one to six of every foster youth who enrolls for a degree actually completes the four-year course to get a degree. The completion rates are extremely bad.
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There are various reasons that have been cited as to why there is a gap in higher education participation between foster youths and their peers, contributing to their low rate in higher education. This gap crops up in part because the children in foster care have usually suffered two traumatic experiences: that is they were abandoned or mistreated by their families and consequently detached from their homes and parents by other strange adults. In some other instances, other foster children suffer a further distress, by being mistreated and disregarded after being placed in the foster care system. Since for most of the children, the separation and readjustment process is repetitive as they are always transferred from one placement to another, constant change of caretakers and schools which could be as often as three times a year, impacts negatively on the child as they never get to neither settle nor enjoy peace of mind. Hence they tend to have a negative attitude towards school, a reason as to why most never yearn for higher education, leave alone the secondary education, with only a small number of foster youths finishing high school. It seems that the only stable aspect in their upbringing is the clothes and personal effects strapped to their backs in their bags. (JM, 1991)
The youth brought up in foster care are much more likely to lack adult life skills and competencies, as compared to their peers who have been brought up by their parents. Typically, these skills are normally gained from one’s parents, for instance how to cloth, feed, managing oneself and resources, how to cook, believing in yourself, keeping to schedules or even shopping. Their attachment foster parents who may be undertrained, teachers, juvenile justice officials, overstrained social workers, counselors and other grown ups throughout their foster care days that are frequently broken by changes in residency, and their providers results in lack of harmonization among those in charge of helping them. Consequently, these children get derailed and lack the necessary coordination in acquiring these fundamental life skills which are vital for them, both in life and in their studies, as opposed to their peers. (Rachel Greene Baldino, 2009)
According to surveys conducted on youths who have undergone foster care, it is shocking that more than half of have been identified with unstable mental health–mental or emotional problems, which are as a result of mistreatment or being neglected during their foster years. The most common of these problems is post-traumatic stress, nervousness, depression and social irrational fear. This rate is almost double that of the public: these children suffer very serious disorders and receive minimal treatment a reason as to why they have lower healing rates. With such problems, there is no way such kids can compete fairly with their peers equitably for the same positions in schools. Without the proper high school education preparation, foster children are less probable to graduate from secondary school than their peers. Since these children are used to a life on the move–may be from one home to another, they tend to have higher rates of lateness, absenteeism, course failures, being suspended, being transferred severally or even being expelled. These children may also be enrolled in schools that have less demanding curriculums, which translates to low grade points, which leaves these students unprepared for higher education. Worse still, the fact that they are brought up by other adults as opposed to their parents, they may not connect, which even if they connect may not be for long, hence the child is left unprepared for the life ahead, more so on matters regarding the importance of education.
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Other barriers include the lack of cultural support, mentorship, adequate information on available opportunities, role models to emulate and in other cases the lack of finances. Only a small number of foster children apply for consideration in the voluntary system of post high school education. After completing high school, which is compulsory in the education system only a few bother to apply for higher education. In part, the low hope by their caretakers and low sense of worth among foster children are contributing factors. There are other factors such as inadequate information or lack of mentorship from trusted role models on how they can apply. Also, without help in selecting a field of study or institution, and scarce information on how they can obtain financial support makes it even harder for these children to access higher education. There others who even after navigating to higher education, due to lack of knowledge alongside other socio-economic factors on how to go about the higher education system, explain why only a small number of the foster youth persevere to the end of the course.
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These broad barriers that have contributed to their low rate of participation in higher education can be mitigated through several ways like policy changes in order to improve and expand opportunities for higher education available to foster youth. This can be achieved by promoting induction of the adult life skills; it is recommended that restructuring of disjointed life transition programs, more collaboration between government agencies concerned with foster care and the implementation of these necessary transformations. As a common practice, the services planned to get foster youth ready for the change into adulthood and independence generally starts at the age of sixteen extending to age twenty-one. However, it would be better if the period was actually extended age twenty-four, the age at which it is assumed that children should be independent and no longer relying on their parents. The three year additional period would ensure that the foster youth get to learn necessary life skills for survival once they leave the foster care and start depending on themselves. (O'Malley, 2005)
As of today, most states have opted to cut off the entitled Medicaid coverage for the children at the age of twenty-one as opposed to eighteen years of age, as was the practice some few years ago. This obligatory extensions and added coverage, which includes mental health services until the age of twenty four, would actually help the foster youth a long way in managing their health issues. As a solution for what should be done to adequately prepare these children for higher education, the K-12 instructors should prepare these children for higher education by advocating for a conventional placement and ensuring that there is minimal transfers from one placement to another by the caretakers. Increased funding for financial aid, counseling services and mentorship for the students in high school and colleges would ensure that the foster children have the necessary information on matters regarding higher education and available opportunities equal to their peers.
Despite the numerous issues with our educational system, we can still improve it so that the foster youth also have a chance to receive a fair education. With the basic function of education being to build virtuous people, then education is fundamental to the growth and development of a person’s personality and there lies the significance of edification to youths. By ensuring that education to the youths consists of the essential training–an extension to their talents, would help the youths identify their career goals, decide their objectives in life. This will enable them to attain success in their specific fields of interest. Education to the youths should aim at assisting the individual in forming a skill set and work on it to develop proficiency in the specific area of his or her interest. Therefore, the education for youths ought to comprise of lessons that can help the youths with their career choices and objectives of life.
Education to the youth is meant to open doors for innovative openings in different fields. Thus, the education system ought to aid the youths in finding the appropriate opportunities to pursue their dreams. It is supposed to facilitate them undertake into new areas and discover new fields. Therefore, in general, education should help the youths realize their goals. It is also important that the learning to youths intends at increasing a social awareness in the youths who are adults-to-be. It is significant that the guidance given to them should comprise of ecological training. Values such as conserving animals, curbing deforestation, controlling the pollution are supposed to be inducted to the youths of today. By presenting the youth with the present-day problems that society is facing, the youths might actually turn up with ground-breaking answers to the troubles of today. Therefore, education should be aimed at fostering the good values into the foster youth in such a way that aware choices reject the bad ones.
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Also, the education system should present the youth with the important social matters and encourage them to act upon them. In this way, education will motivate the foster youths to volunteer to work for society. As it will have inspired them into the feeling of belonging to the society and that it depends upon them to steer it in the virtuous path. Through this kind of education, the youths would have logic of social awareness, alongside their growing sense of self-awareness. If all these changes in the education system were instituted, the foster youth could have a better chance to receive a fair education.