Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus, and Congressman Don Bacon (NE-02), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, have introduced new legislation, the Fostering Postsecondary Success for Foster and Homeless Youth.
Earning some form of higher education is increasingly necessary to secure a well-paying job. Unfortunately, foster and homeless youth face unique barriers to enroll in and graduate from an institution of higher education, which have only been exacerbated by the public health and economic crises caused by the pandemic.
Only about 14 percent of foster youth complete a bachelor's degree within 6 years, but institutions of higher education with campus-based support programs for foster and homeless youth see increased graduation rates for these students. For example, Western Michigan University's Seita Scholars program, which serves foster youth, has a graduation rate of 42 percent. There has been success with these targeted programs that provide academic and counseling services at many colleges nationwide, and this legislation would build on that work.
The Fostering Postsecondary Success for Foster and Homeless Youth Act would create:
A recognition program through the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to identify and highlight colleges and universities with tailored campus-based supports for foster and homeless youth. By designating higher education institutions as "Foster and Homeless Youth Friendly" and profiling them on ED's website, this program will recognize institutions for their commitment to students and help these students navigate the college-going process.
A national Center for Fostering Postsecondary Success for Foster and Homeless Youth, to provide technical assistance to postsecondary institutions as they create and maintain campus-based supports and disseminate best practices across the country.
"Postsecondary education or training of some kind is increasingly necessary to compete in the twenty-first century economy. Completing higher education can be challenging for many people, but youth who are in foster care or experience homelessness face unique challenges. They significantly benefit from wraparound services that they are often missing because of where they were born. I started my career working with children at the Whaley's Children Center in Flint. I am proud to work in Congress to continue that work and support these students who deserve the opportunity to attend and be successful in college, just like any other child," said Congressman Kildee.
"Entering the adult world of working and paying bills is especially challenging for our foster and homeless youth as they transition out of a system of support to navigating the world on their own, and this program will help them identify where they can get support in seeking a higher education to work towards gainful, meaningful employment," said Congressman Bacon."As a foster to adopt parent myself, I understand the challenges facing our foster and homeless youth and know that this program could be life-changing for so many. I am thankful to Rep. Kildee and all of our cosponsors for their support of this lifechanging legislation."
"Congressman Kildee has been a long time champion for youth with experience in foster care in Michigan. We appreciate the efforts of Representatives Kildee and Bacon, as well as their staffs. This legislation will impact college access and success for youth with experience in foster care by raising awareness about campus based programs that support these resilient students," said Fostering Success Michigan Executive Director Karie Ward.
In addition to Congressman Kildee and Congressman Bacon, Reps. Karen Bass (CA-37), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Andrew Garbarino (NY-02), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), John Katko (NY-24), Jim Langevin (RI-02), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Al Lawson (FL-05), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Peter Meijer (MI-03), Bill Posey (FL-08), Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (GU-At Large) and Darren Soto (FL-09) are cosponsors of the legislation.
The Fostering Postsecondary Success for Foster and Homeless Youth Act is endorsed by a coalition of over 40 institutions of higher education, non-profits and child welfare organizations, including: AOK Scholars Program, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Champions Empowering Champions, Child Welfare League of America, Children's Aid, Community College of Philadelphia, Delta College, Educate Tomorrow, Education Law Center-PA, Family Focused Treatment Association, Family Promise, Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research, Florida International University, Florida State University, Fostering Success Michigan, Fostering Youth Success Alliance, John Burton Advocates for Youth, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Lutheran Services in America, Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU), Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness, Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP), Michigan's Children, National Association of Counsel for Children, National Center on Adoption and Permanency, National Coalition for the Homeless, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Nevada System of Higher Education, Ohio Children's Alliance, Penn State University, School House Connection, Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, University of California System, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Michigan-Flint, University of Southern California, Voice for Adoption, Western Michigan University and Young Invincibles.