THE FOSTER CARE COMMUNITy
“The consistent, enduring presence of a caring adult in a young person’s life can be the difference between staying in school or dropping out, making healthy decisions or engaging in risky behaviors, and realizing one’s potential or failing to achieve one’s dreams.” (Bruce & Bridgeland, 2014)
The absence of parental guidance and emotional support hinders the ability for any youth to flourish in the world––this is especially true for those growing up in foster care. Statistics show that only about 50% of those who age out of care will obtain a high school diploma, and 97% of children in foster care will not graduate from college, despite the fact that as wards of the state, they receive a full-ride to any state school of their choice.
Youth who are out of the foster care system are often expected to be as self-sufficient as their peers not in foster care, who still have parental support and guidance. This lack of support and resources combined with the multiple traumas these youth have experienced, affects their success and well being in life upon aging out. As a result of having to overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect, removal from their caregivers, unstable living arrangements as well as multiple homes, and weak support systems, youth who age out of care are expected to enter young adulthood with no solid foundation upon which they can build their futures.
The heart of our Dare to Dream program is to walk alongside youth as they navigate through life's challenges. The youth in our program need the wisdom, advice, encouragement, and community that mentors can provide. Mentors meet practical and emotional needs as well as provide guidance through developmental milestones. The goal is for youth to be engaged and to feel supported and equipped to navigate life. Mentoring is much more than a push in the right direction, or a voice to listen to – it is a trusted relationship, support system, and guidance leading towards a path of personal growth and positive youth development. The outcomes in a young adult's life are molded by individuals who believe in their dreams and aspirations––and an encouraging and supportive mentor can help ensure that youth achieve these goals.
We tell mentors that the simple act of telling their youth, “I believe in you.”, “You are special.”, “You are going to do great things.”, can change their path completely.
“Virtually every aspect of human development is fundamentally shaped by interpersonal relationships. So it stands to reason that when close and caring relationships are placed at the center of a youth intervention, as is the case in mentoring programs, the conditions for healthy development are ripe.” – Dr. Jean Rhodes, Director, MENTOR/The University of Massachusetts Boston Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring
The milestones within the Dare to Dream program are intended to encourage and guide youth towards a bright, strong future. Milestones such as building healthy relationships, post-graduate planning, creating healthy habits, and obtaining a driver's license are some of the mentoring priorities our program offers, which allow youth in the foster care system to thrive and succeed.
To learn more about the experience of youth in foster care, watch Tyler’s video below.
Bruce, M., & Bridgeland, J. (2014). The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring. Civic Enterprises in association with Hart Research Associates.
Unrau, Y. A., Font, S. A., & Rawls, G. (2012). Readiness for college engagement among students who have aged out of foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 76-83. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2011.09.002
Courtney, E. M., Dworsky, A., Brown, A., Cary, C., Love, K., & Vorhies, V. (2011). Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth: Outcomes at age 26. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
Investing time in your community may be more valuable than you think. Volunteering your time to help with even the smallest of tasks can be extremely helpful and rewarding to the organization you are contributing to. Volunteers are much more than a helpful hand; they are a vital piece of an organization, and ultimately, play a great role in achieving goals and supporting the mission of an organization.
“Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together.”
The perks of volunteering go both ways - it can impact YOU as much as the cause you are supporting. Volunteering builds empathy and self-esteem, encourages connection with others, and increases levels of happiness.
Often when we think of volunteering, we think about it in terms of the impact it will have on others; however, volunteering typically has just as much, if not more, impact on the volunteer as it does the recipient. In an age where rates of depression and loneliness are at an all-time high, one way to alleviate these could be as simple as giving your time and energy to others. When we take the focus off ourselves and our problems, and focus on others, it often allows us to get a better perspective and have a more positive outlook overall.