Over 23,000 young people age out of the foster care system annually with nowhere to go and a lack of education to help them achieve personal and professional goals, according to the National Foster Youth Institute. Without interventions:
- 20% of the 18 year-olds will become instantly homeless
- Only 50% will achieve gainful employment by the age of 24
“Foster care is a temporary living situation for children whose parents cannot take care of them and whose need for care has come to the attention of child welfare agency staff,” according to a definition provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Unfortunately, temporary isn’t always the case. And according to the nonprofit advocacy group Children’s Rights and federal data, “One-third of children entering foster care in the United States were young people of color.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Black and Latinx children in foster care are more likely than their white peers to “experience poor social, behavioral and educational outcomes.” In a 2019 report by the American Bar Association, there are five factors that explain racial disparities in the child welfare system. These include the following:
- Lack of resources
- Institutional and personal biases
- Limited access to services
While foster care is a critically important program that helps so many children, negative foster care situations impact kids just when they most need support to become the adults they were meant to be. Thankfully, there are people and programs working to help the next generation overcome these obstacles.
How Robert F. Smith is Making a Positive Impact on the Foster Care System
When foster children turn 18, many lose the “financial, education, and familial resources” they need to be successful, according to Fund II Foundation’s Family Fellowship initiative. The Family Fellowship Initiative is a program organized by Together We Rise, a nonprofit led by young people, formerly in the foster care system, who are dedicated to “transforming the way thousands of kids experience foster care.” The group with Fund II Foundation is focused on helping young people, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, achieve educational and professional success.
Smith is founding director and President of Fund II Foundation, which provides grants to nonprofits like Together We Rise. In 2015, Fund II Foundation and Together We Rise launched the Family Fellowship scholarship program with the Smith family to offer foster care students up to $18,000 in scholarships for up to five years to attend university, community college or trade school.
The first Fellows accepted by the program met with the Smiths in California where they received Macbooks to ensure they acquired 21st-Century digital skills to further their educational goals.
Learn more about Smith’s efforts to support foster children pursuing higher education opportunities.