With lived experience of a former foster youth and a current advocate for several children in care as a contract attorney in child protection, this is my view on why educational funding for foster youth through the age of 28 is essential.
Foster children are among the most vulnerable members of our society. Removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or other traumatic circumstances, they often face significant challenges as they navigate the foster care system. One of the most pressing issues that foster children encounter is the lack of access to higher education due to financial constraints. That’s why it’s imperative that foster children receive college funding until the age of 28.
Foster children face numerous barriers when it comes to pursuing higher education. Many have experienced disruptions in their education due to frequent moves and changes in schools. They may also struggle with emotional and mental health issues stemming from their traumatic experiences, which can impact their ability to focus and succeed academically.
Additionally, they often lack the financial support that many other young adults receive from their families, making it difficult for them to afford tuition, textbooks, housing, and other expenses associated with college. In this vein, the cutoff of age 23 does not allow enough time for unsupported or under-supported foster youth to stabilize enough to obtain their degree.
Extending college funding for foster children until the age of 28 can have a significant positive impact on their lives. First and foremost, it can provide them with an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and achieve economic independence. Education is a key factor in obtaining stable employment and higher earning potential, and foster children deserve the same opportunity to access these benefits as their peers. By providing funding for college, we can empower foster children to pursue their dreams and build a brighter future for themselves.
Moreover, extending college funding for foster children can also address the unique challenges they face. Many foster children require additional support to overcome educational gaps resulting from disruptions in their schooling. With extended funding, they can access tutoring, counseling, and other resources that can help them succeed academically. It is important to note that these services can often be provided by the university they attend. It can also provide them with the financial stability needed to focus on their studies without the added stress of working multiple jobs or worrying about basic needs. Instead, they can share in the responsibility of funding their educational journey as many of their non-foster youth peers are expected to.
Furthermore, extending college funding for foster children recognizes that the journey to adulthood can be different for those who have experienced foster care. The age of 18, when many foster children “age out” of the system, does not necessarily mark the end of their need for support. Studies have shown that youth who age out of foster care without a support system face increased risks of homelessness, unemployment, and involvement with the criminal justice system. By extending college funding until the age of 28, we can provide a safety net for these young adults as they transition into adulthood, ensuring that they have the resources they need to thrive.
Foster children face unique challenges that can hinder their access to higher education. Extending college funding until the age of 28 can provide them with the opportunity to pursue their educational goals, overcome barriers, and achieve economic independence. It’s not only a practical investment in their future, but also a compassionate recognition of the obstacles they face and a commitment to supporting their success. The economic impact of this funding can be limited (if necessary) to remove case management.
As a society, we have a moral obligation to provide foster children with the same opportunities as their peers. Extending college funding is a critical step toward achieving that goal. It’s time to prioritize the education and well-being of foster children and ensure that they have the support they need to reach their full potential for the length of time required by their circumstance.
Rachael Levine is owner of Levine Litigation LLC in Brookfield.