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Aug 02, 2016

Parents who are fostering or have adopted a teen from foster care want their children to do well in school and be successful. In light of the rather grim statistics, let's talk about what we mean by "success" in education.

Setting Expectations

"Success" is a subjective and sometimes biased term, and parents often measure their parenting success by their children's academic success--thus the high expecations. For children who have experienced abuse, neglect, and a host of educational disadvantages, disproportionately high expectations do nothing to set them up for success. It's unrealistic, for example, to expect an 18-year-old with an eighth grade reading level, who has experienced three different foster home placements and missed significant days of school, to deliver "all A's" on his eleventh grade homework.

When you talk about "success" with regard to your child's education, you may need to reframe how you define it to better match your teen's goals. What is an attainable goal for this student? All things considered, success might be:

  • Attending school every day without any unexcused absences.
  • Improving her reading level by two grade levels in one year.
  • Graduating from high school by age 19

Begin with a conversation. How do they define success? What are their goals? Has anyone talked to them about the idea of college and where to begin? You will likely need to help your teen break down their goals into manageable and achievable action steps.

College is Possible

Perhaps college is the appropriate and achievable goal for your teen. It is important to talk with your teen to determine the best college environment for them--it will make a difference. While many large universities may have more academic supports and resources, your teen may find the size of the campus and lecture halls overwhelming or impersonal. A smaller school may be able to provide more structure and invididualized attention. You may want to consider the benefits of online degree programs or starting out part-time. High school guidance counselors are able to assist students and their families with identifying schools that may be a good fit and setting up campus visits. In addition, many states provide financial assistance to teens that were in foster care after the age of 14. This can significantly assist a family with the financial burden that college may impose.

Be a cheerleader.College is not an expectation, or even a concept, in all families. A student whose parents have an eighth grade education will have difficulting imagining himself attending college. Take him on a campus visit during his junior and senior years. Let him hear you say, and then show him, that it's possible for him to do anything he sets his mind to.

Talk about alternatives.Traditional college simply may not be the best option for your child. What are her interest? How can he obtain further skills that lend to his strengths? Trade or technical schools can provide your son or daughter with the necessary skills and certifications to be competitive in the work force.

Article taken from Bethany’s Summer 2015 LifeLines magazine. Written by Stacey Goodson, Child Welfare Supervisor and Foster Parent.