Note to Reporters: Greg King and Brittany Janes are both available for telephone interviews about the Fostering Success program at CSU. Janes lives in Fort Collins and is available for on-camera interviews. Photos of Greg King and Brittany Janes are available with the news release at www.news.colostate.edu.
An innovative new program at Colorado State University is addressing the needs and helping ensure the success of an often-unknown segment of the university community – former foster youth. Nationally, only 2 percent of former foster youth earn four-year degrees.
The Fostering Success program has been created at Colorado State to assist the estimated 80 students on campus who have aged out of the foster care system and no longer have families to support them or homes to return to during university breaks. Without financial, emotional and physical family support these students face significant obstacles as they attempt to live as average students on or off campus, succeed academically and earn a degree.
“Foster care alumni at CSU have beaten the odds when you look at the national statistics on education and foster care,” said Siri Newman, collegiate success coordinator for the Center for Advising and Student Achievement at Colorado State. “Only 10 percent of foster youth attend college. To make it to college is an incredible achievement, and our goal with the creation of the Fostering Success program is to ensure that foster care alumni at CSU have the resources and support they need to reach graduation.”
Through the program, finals week care packages are being delivered, and a financial assistance workshop is being offered this week to former foster youth at CSU.
Former foster youth often work one or two full-time jobs in addition to taking full-time classes. They encounter unexpected expenses including medical care. They have difficulty being able to afford quality housing and often have no place to go during university breaks. Simple things that many college students take for granted – books, school supplies, bedding, a computer, travel opportunities – are simply out of reach for most of these students. These students know how lonely it is to not have family members share your accomplishments, encourage you when your grades slip and welcome you home during holiday breaks.
Many former foster youth have faced difficult realities that have led to being removed from their families. These students are on their own from very young ages, sometimes moving between many schools and families. They generally lack role models and mentors and have had little help developing career or college aspirations.
But, the students at CSU have already beaten great odds by applying and meeting the strict criteria to be accepted. Nationally:
• 65 percent of foster youth change high schools seven or more times.
• Less than half of them graduate from high school.
• 15 percent go on to any type of higher education.
• 10 percent attend four-year colleges or universities.
• 2 percent earn a four-year degree.
• Between 40 percent and 50 percent of emancipated foster youth are homeless within 18 months of emancipation.
Greg King knows firsthand the challenges faced by former foster youth who have beaten the odds by making it into college. He knows how exhausting it is to work all night and take classes all day. As an undergraduate student, King rarely bought any of the books required for his classes; he didn’t have the money.
While his friends enjoyed trips to Denver to attend music concerts or ski weekends to the mountains, King often stayed home alone, unable to afford any extracurricular activities.
Feeling left out when his residence hall roommates received care packages from home, King would fill and mail boxes to himself, and proudly show his friends what his family had sent to him.
“The most uncomfortable thing to do is to go to school and have to ask other people to borrow their things,” said King, who earned his master’s in Student Affairs in Higher Education from CSU in 2008. “I once had to borrow a friend’s jeans because I only owned one pair of pants and couldn’t afford to do laundry.”
Brittany Janes, a current CSU student, is using her experiences in foster care to reach out to other former foster youth on campus to create a community of support. Janes is working with CSU administrators to bring the students together to assess the needs of students who have no family support and to offer opportunities.
“I hope it’s just a place for former foster youth to feel safe,” said Janes, a graduate student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education master’s program. “Foster care is a pretty unique experience. Most students don’t understand what it’s like to not have a family. I wish they would have had a program like this when I was an undergraduate student. It would have given me the extra support I needed.”
Through Fostering Success, CSU’s Division of Student Affairs is reaching former foster youth through a variety of channels and raising money to support this unique segment of the university population.
This fall, study care packages were assembled and delivered to former foster youth on campus and included encouraging notes from volunteers and CSU administrators. Janes’ former foster youth support group is growing every week as she hears from students who want to be involved with the program, and the university has created a fund to accept private donations to help former foster youth buy books, pay for emergency expenses, residence halls necessities, bedding and other expenses.
“These students have worked hard and beaten the odds so many times including being accepted to CSU,” said Brett Anderson, vice president for University Advancement. “Through a gift to Fostering Success, individuals can play a role in giving these young people some of the opportunities enjoyed by students who have the support of their families.”
To donate to Fostering Success, visit www.campaign.colostate.edu/FosteringSuccess.