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A Look at the College Admissions Gap Among Foster Kids | Ecology of Education

A Look at the College Admissions Gap Among Foster Kids

It is little or no surprise that foster kids have a harder go at becoming ingratiated into society than kids living with both biological parents.  Some of the difficulties involved stem from the inherent uncertainty as to the child’s place.  Do I belong here?  Why can’t my “real” parents take care of me?  Is there something wrong with me?  Foster kids can sometimes find themselves asking these questions along with all the other uncertainties associated with youth.  Understandably, this angst can hurt performance in school and alienate foster kids from learning in general.  It is for these reasons (among others) that foster kids experience a gap in college admissions as compared to their non-foster care peers.  Below is a glance at the college admissions gap and a brief exploration of some of the causes.

Representation

Representation here is important to achieve an overarching view of the kinds of children who are generally placed in foster care and how they can best be served.  Health and Human Services reports have stated that there are roughly 550,000 children in foster care in the United States.  This number is made up of nearly 41% of African-American children.  The number also includes a very high number of Alaskan Native American children.  Despite what we would like to believe about race relations in America, it is clear by several reports that children from these ethnic minority groups don’t receive the same quality instruction as other children.  Coupled with the difficulties of being a foster child, these kids are essentially hit with a double whammy.

Statistics

There are several statistics that serve to illustrate just why being a foster kid is less likely to be admitted to a college.  The first statistic to look at is that foster kids in general are about ½ a year behind their peers.  This can be accounted for by noting that each time a foster child is placed in a new home, his/her performance falls behind.  After enough movies, it’s easy to see how a foster child could quickly fall behind.

Another important statistic is 42%.  42% is the number of kids placed in foster homes that don’t enroll in school right away.  Again, this delay in getting started pushes foster kids behind their peers and creates a disadvantage they’re surely aware of.  It’s an isolating feeling to be at the back of the class, and each time a student moves he/she gets pushed back even farther.

Hope

Luckily there are a lot of good organizations out there, for example http://www.nyfoundling.org, that make sure foster kids get a fair shake when it comes to achievement in school and, thereby, increase the probability that they will desire and be admitted to college after high-school.  There has also been ample research suggesting that parent involvement in homework can significantly increase a student’s chances.  By engaging with foster kids early and providing a stable school environment, there is hope that the admissions gap can be tightened.