At I Pour Life, we are working hard to celebrate 2020 graduates. This is not only because of the lack of ceremonies but because graduating from high school is an amazing accomplishment. It is certainly a milestone that deserves to be celebrated for foster youth.

On average, a high school graduate makes approximately $8,500 more per year than nongraduates. Foster youth would greatly benefit from this extra income. Many of them are navigating an independent lifestyle while aging out of government care, sometimes with little to no support. High school is also crucial for foster youth as it can introduce positive connections and be a source of stability. The 2018 National Factsheet on Educational Outcomes in Foster Care highlights the importance of high school for this population.

“When supported by strong practices and policies, positive school experiences can counteract the negative effects of abuse, neglect, separation, and lack of permanency experienced by the more than 400,000 U.S. children and youth in foster care.”

While there are many benefits to completing high school education, the road to the diploma isn’t easy. Many people simply aren’t aware of the unique challenges foster youth face when it comes to high school.

Challenges Foster Youth Face in School

The high school experience can be very challenging for foster youth. Many older foster youth live in residential, transitional, or independent living environments while attending high school. This may include attending a high school on-site at the residential facility or traveling to a local school. Because many older foster youths have been moved frequently, it is not uncommon for youth to have transferred to 3 or more high schools. 

One challenge foster youth face is that they are frequently moved with different placements that disrupt their learning progression. Any move is disruptive, but in high school, it usually requires youth to go to credit recovery classes. They fall behind or their previous high school followed a different curriculum, making transitioning to a new school extra challenging. 

Another challenge is that older foster youth tend to have fewer to no social connections at high school. While many high schoolers look forward to the day they are no longer in school, they remain present and engaged because they have friends and social circles that give them a sense of belonging. 

Older foster youth rarely have the social capital amongst their high school peers to have any incentive to stay. This can be compounded if they are held back a grade and then feel out of place with younger classmates. Without peer relational influences, they are more likely to drop out or fall behind.

Older foster youth face perhaps one of the most disheartening challenges to advancing in their education: statistical significance. Well documented research has shown that older foster youth have worse educational outcomes than even their low-income peers. By nature, this statistic is difficult to overcome. 

What is I Pour Life Doing To Help?

I Pour Life’s LifeStrengths program works to assist older foster youth to overcome these challenges. Older foster youth experience the benefits of a positive, stable relationship that supports goal setting and achievement when they participate in LifeStrengths. The majority of older foster youth considered for the LifeStrengths program do not have any positive relationships in their life. As a result, the LifeStrengths LifeCoach often becomes the first person to build social capital in youth and expand their network of support. 

We are grateful to the many friends who participated in the commencement video to celebrate the hard work of many inspiring graduates, especially the foster youth in the class of 2020. We are also grateful that this video was able to reach youth beyond our immediate I Pour Life family. This was thanks to outlets like Good Morning America for sharing the video and championing the success of foster youth. To our 2020 graduates: biggest congratulations

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