From foster care to baccalaureate and beyond : educational experiences of successful foster care alumni




Greer, Samuel Jennings

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Children in America’s foster care system represent one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations of students. The life outcomes of these children can be tragic, with disproportionate numbers experiencing prison, homelessness, non-marital parenthood, and other poor life outcomes. Many of these children have suffered trauma before and after they were placed in care, and many have special medical, emotional, and social needs. Of all the difficulties that foster children experience, however, low academic achievement may have the most detrimental consequences for their futures. The purpose of this study is to explore the commonalities of the 2-3% of former foster children who graduate from college despite the odds against them. By delving into the experiences of this population, this study hopes to contribute to the research by improving our understanding of academically successful foster care alumni, particularly by studying the social and educational support systems that abetted the success. Because a majority of foster care alumni remain on some form of public assistance throughout the course of their lives, any reduction of that number would be a step in the right direction. By studying the tiny minority that successfully graduates from college, we can gain insight into how this group managed to overcome the barriers that prevented the other 97% of this group from graduating from college. The findings could have implications ranging from K-12 educational support systems in and out of schools, higher education policy decisions, and foster care program design.



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