FOSTER YOUTH NEED MORE THAN EDUCATION TO BUILD A STABLE LIFE [Zocalo]

 

By Mike Stajura, August 19, 2019 

Schools Don’t Nurture Long-Term Relationships—and May Even Discourage Them

For the last three years, I have been working on public policy related to foster youth. But at a recent monthly foster care policy meeting in Sacramento, where experts were discussing the needs of foster youth fortunate enough to go to college, I found myself thinking, “They’re missing the point.” Getting the degree doesn’t fix the real problem that foster youth have, which is forming relationships.

I was fully aware of the implicit arrogance of my thought in this room full of well-intentioned, talented, and hardworking people. They’d been chipping away at a piece of marble for years—but I was claiming that I knew what the statue underneath really looked like.

As a former foster youth who is now middle-aged, it is sometimes difficult to sit in these meetings. Experts and advocates speak about interconnected challenges faced by foster youth aging out of the child welfare system: underemployment and job-hopping, educational disparities, housing instability and homelessness, and mental health issues related to childhood trauma and neglect. Advocates have helped to pass and implement many successful policies that have improved the odds and the outcomes for foster youth. In my estimation, though, the true root issue faced by foster youth has remained beyond the reach of policy even though everyone in the room knows what it is.

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