on foster care issues:

2013 National Convening on Foster Youth and Higher Education

| March 21st, 2014

Hot off the press – Last October more than 100 professionals gathered in Los Angeles to discuss a national drive to  improve higher education outcomes for foster youth.  FC2S was in integral part of the meeting, and prepared the Conference Proceedings:  2013 National Convening on Foster Youth and Higher Education.

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Bold Leaders!

| November 11th, 2013

Bold LeadersOn October 21st, Maria Garin Jones, Program Manager for Aim Higher at FC2S met with a delegation of teachers from multiple Caribbean nations, including Jamaica, Grenada, and the Bahamas.  The group traveled to the U.S. as part of the Youth Ambassadors Program sponsored by Bold Leaders. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, Bold Leaders is dedicated to providing leadership development and training services for young people and adults all over the world.  The program engages both youth and adult educators in an intensive learning experience in the urban areas of Denver and Washington, DC.  Upon return to their home countries, participants engage in community-based projects designed to empower young people and educators while promoting youth leadership and community engagement.

FC2S staff provided an overview of child welfare in the U. S. and legislation passed in recent years to improve the lives of children and youth involved with the foster care system.  The group engaged in discussion about the challenges facing older youth as they transition to adulthood, both in the U.S. and in the Caribbean nations represented.   Members of the delegation also talked about the obstacles facing youth in their own countries and shared some of the programs they are developing to provide additional support and opportunities to the youth.

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If at first you don’t succeed – tips for getting the job you want

| November 7th, 2013

Francesca WeemsStudents get into college, navigate the financial aid system, succeed in all of their classes, graduate, and expect to get a good job. Unfortunately, recently graduated students may have to take any job they can get while they pursue their dream of the “ideal” job.

Foster Care to Success alumna Francesca Weems knows from first-hand experience the challenges and rewards of the job search. She recently got a full-time position as a Sports Anchor/Reporter at Mississippi News Now (WLBT) in Jackson. This job is the result of a lengthy process that started during her sophomore year at the University of California-Berkeley. “My track and field coach got me in touch with people at ESPN. They were hosting a game and I helped out for that game. That opened up a bunch of doors! Half the battle in any business is who you know, not necessarily what you know. Going to school and getting good grades is very important, but it’s also about building relationships with the people around you. That’s eventually how you will get your job and that’s what I’ve learned completely first hand.”

After finishing her BA in Mass Communication, Francesca continued onto grad school and got a Master’s in education with the help of Foster Care to Success. She describes her reasons for getting this degree, “I knew that I wanted to be on air and I knew in reality that it was a very competitive field. I needed a back-up plan. Education in my opinion was perfect. It would still allow me to communicate with people and I thought I would teach mass communication in some format, should television not work out.”

Like all job seekers, Francesca faced her challenging periods. “There were definitely some hard times, because when I finished and got my Master’s, I was having problems finding education jobs and jobs on air. They weren’t hiring teachers. I sent out my reel to a bunch of people. Hundreds of stations and they also weren’t hiring. For about five months, I didn’t have a job. I got a little discouraged then slowly stuff started to pick up. I got a job at Comcast SportsNet.” Francesca’s path in television came through.

Tips from Francesca’s Job Search

  • “I have had mentors in television for the past seven years, which have been critical in getting me to where I am today.  Mentors understand the obstacles you face in careers because they have gone through them as well.  They can help you navigate the job market and help you avoid the same pitfalls they encountered.”
  • Go to conferences. Conferences can be especially useful if you fit into a specific group within a large industry. Francesca attended the conference for the National Association of Black Journalists. Many companies want to hire underrepresented groups. Conferences can open doors and help people create connections.
  • Keep looking! “A lot of us don’t have the luxury of having a lot of money in savings. Cast a wide net, take that first job that comes along, and continue to search for the job in the field you want.”
  • Follow your dreams. At least trying to make your dreams a reality is an essential part of living a life without regrets.

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Chelsea Passes the Flame

| October 29th, 2013

Chelsea with AwardChelsea Miles, recent college graduate and Aim Higher Fellow, was selected as the October employee of the month at Tooele Junior High where she teaches 7th grade language arts in Tooele, Utah.  The award she received is called the “Passing of the Flame” (because the trophy looks like a flame).

She was nominated by a co-worker because of her flair for creativity, her ability to keep track of the standards that teachers are required to cover, and because her kindness and patience with all the students with whom she works.

Chelsea is so excited about this award.  She has only been teaching for a few short months and finds herself second guessing her choices and questioning her approaches with students.  By receiving this award, it has helped her gain some perspective and realize that she is making a positive difference – no matter how small – in the lives of the middle school students that she teaches on a daily basis.

Says Chelsea, “On days when I feel like everything has gone terribly, I’ll have a student come up and tell me that I’m their favorite teacher or I’ll have a breakthrough with a student that has been struggling.  It’s surprising how much power and influence I have with them, and every day, I try to make sure I’m using it in a positive way.”

While she feels honored to have received this award, it’s not the faculty-wide recognition that keeps her motivated.  She’s most excited to see her students actually learn what she’s teaching and then use it to make their lives better.  This is what makes her job worth it!

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“Just in Time” Financial Education and Some Good Suggestions

| October 21st, 2013

Not many people relish diving into financial issues and educating themselves on the finer details of interest rates, detailed approaches to saving, or the fees attached to a credit card. However, this lack of knowledge can easily lead to a series of progressively difficult events. In “Financial Literacy, Beyond the Classroom,” New York Times writer Richard Thaler describes the importance of “just-in-time education.” A high school student sitting through a lecture on finance is not really going to understand the significance of the imparted wisdom. However, they will need the information just in the nick of time before their bank account gets overdrawn or something else harmful occurs. One approach for remedying this is to develop some simple rules that can easily lodge in the mind. Here are some we believe in here at Foster Care to Success:

Simple Financial Rules

  1. Rent your books through www.chegg.com  to save a BUNDLE! Or, if you need to buy them, check out www.directtextbook.com to find the cheapest source online.
  2. Use your student discount.
  3. If you save, you’ll have money when you need it. (Think vehicle repairs!)
  4. Stick to your grocery list and don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.
  5. Don’t take out any more in loans than you need.
  6. Watch for hidden costs. – fees attached to credit cards, giving friends rides without getting gas money, interest rates that accrue on loans.
  7. Use technology to help control your finances. (Overdraft text message alerts, phone alerts when you’re going over your data allowance).

Financial literacy increases confidence and makes anyone ready to take on the world.

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Be the Difference in Lives Of Students Who’ve Experienced Foster Care

| October 7th, 2013

You are the difference – the difference between being an overwhelmed, underprepared student starting college or a job training program and a successful student graduating with a plan.

What makes the difference? Foster Care to Success (FC2S), its donors and volunteers are the dinner table conversation where parents relay important information to their children that youth in foster care miss. We are the phone call to a favorite high school teacher that a student in college makes asking for advice on how to pass a class. We are the doting aunt who sends the care package to her niece in school. We are the red scarf wrapped around a student’s neck like hug keeping her warm on a chilly evening.

Father's Day and Foster CareFoster Care to Success is NOT just an organization that distributes educational funding to youth who experienced foster care now working their way through vocational training or college. We are so much more. And, we couldn’t do it without our extended family of volunteers who knit scarves and mentor and coach students, our ETV program partners, and the generous organizations and individuals who donate to us. Together, we are the family, the support system that students who experienced foster care need to transform from that overwhelmed student in danger of leaving school to the proud graduate with a professional certification or a degree and the world at their feet.

Can you help us make the difference in the lives of students who’ve experienced foster care? Can you donate money to the scholarship program? Can your employer give products for care packages? Can you knit a red scarf? Can you be a mentor? We hope you join us and get to know these amazing students.


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Report Examines How Young Black and Latino Males Succeed in New York City Schools

| October 7th, 2013

Today we have a guest blog post by Maria Archuleta of the Open Society Foundations.

Study includes interviews with 400 high school students and 90 recent graduates

NEW YORK — The most comprehensive, qualitative report of academic success predictors among black and Latino high school students in the U.S. ­­was released today by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. The study, “Succeeding in the City: A Report from the New York City Black and Latino Male High School Achievement Study,” was led by Dr. Shaun Harper, director of the university’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.

The Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement funded the report.

“I knew more could be learned about the success of young men of color in urban high schools,” said Harper. “I wanted to learn from young men who had been confronted with the same cultural and socioeconomic factors as their lower performing peers, yet managed to succeed in school. Specifically, I wanted to know how they developed college aspirations, became college-ready, and navigated their ways to higher education.”

The study includes over 400 face-to-face student interviews from the 40 New York City high schools participating in the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), which is designed to increase college and career readiness among the city’s black and Latino males. ESI schools are a part of New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative (YMI)—the nation’s most comprehensive effort to tackle the broad disparities slowing the advancement of Black and Latino young men.

The research team attributed levels of success to several factors including:

  • Consistently high expectations from parents and families
  • Reputations that exempted them from gang recruitment
  • A desire to transcend poverty
  • Meaningful relationships with caring teachers and other adults in their schools who foster innovative college-going cultures and respectful educational environments

Participants included Black and Latino male juniors and seniors who maintained a 3.0 average, were engaged in multiple school activities, planned to enroll in college, and had taken a sequence of course work that would qualify them for pursuit of a college education.

The study also included 90 Black and Latino male undergraduate students who were enrolled at 44 colleges and universities. In the data collected from the college participants, Harper found:

  • Approximately 75 percent applied exclusively to public colleges in New York because these were the only schools to which they were introduced
  • Students felt intellectually prepared for college
  • An alarming number of students, however, felt they were not adequately prepared to navigate the college academic environment, including meeting professors’ expectations, multitasking and meeting deadlines, or effectively studying. Despite that, 45.6% of undergraduates in this study managed to earn cumulative college GPAs above 3.0
  • Few students established substantive relationships with professors (a key factor in high school success)

The report features recommendations for student success aimed at various stakeholders—parents and families, urban high school teachers, high school guidance counselors, principals and other high school leaders, and postsecondary professionals and leaders.

“This new report reflects the vision, values, and fortitude of students who were able to change the odds of their educational trajectories,” said Shawn Dove, manager of Open Society’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement. “What we learn from these young men should be promoted and reinforced in not only school districts across America, but in the collective consciousness of teachers, administrators, policymakers, researchers, parents, and others who care about the educational success of our nation’s black and Latino young men.”

The Open Society Foundations supports YMI in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the City of New York.

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.

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Foster Care Hero Danielle Gletow

| October 1st, 2013

Danielle Gletow

Danielle Gletow

Everyone wishes for something.  Danielle Gletow’s  organization One Simple Wish works to fulfill the wishes of foster children, at-risk youth and vulnerable families around the country.  Founded in 2008, One Simple Wish helps others become heroes as well, by letting them make children’s dreams come true.  One Simple Wish donors contribute everything from tickets to sporting events, iPods, prom dresses and even money for braces. Danielle and her husband are the parents of daughters Lily, Mia and Duncan the dog.

Danielle was gracious enough to have a conversation with us about her experience as a foster parent, the state of foster care today, and other important topics.

What gave you the idea for One Simple Wish? 

After fostering for a year, my husband and I felt like we wanted/needed to do more to make life a little brighter for these children that were entering such a tough and confusing system. We saw so much unique need and a lack of knowledge among the general public about how to help kids.  We created One Simple Wish as a way to make it easier for people to get involved with supporting kids in “the system” without having to become part of the system themselves.

What are the most important things people should know before they become foster parents?

Be prepared!  One thing that foster parenting offers that traditional parenting does not is good training classes. Take them.  You will  network with people who could become good support systems down the line.  Be flexible and ready for changes.  Caseworkers miss meetings, reschedule appointments and don’t always have all the answers you want when you want them.  You have to be able to roll with the punches as a foster parent.  Be loving. The most important thing you can do is unconditionally love the children you are caring for. They need to feel safe, and this is your chance to show them the best side of people.

What advice do you have for new foster parents? 

My advice is hang in there and remember why you are doing this. Navigating the foster care system can be overwhelming and frustrating for the kids and the parents.  But hang in there.  Love the kids.  Support them. Make sure they know you are there for them, now and always.

How has being a foster parent changed your life?

In every way possible!  Becoming a foster parent helped me find my passion in life, which is caring for, nurturing and supporting kids. I think there is nothing more beautiful than the innocence and potential of every child.  With a lot of love and support, I believe every kid can reach greatness.

What are the biggest issues you see in the foster care world right now? 

I think we need a broader pool of foster parents who do not need or care about the money. I think it’s nice to add an incentive but really, we need more foster parents who want to do it and who can do it solely out of love and kindness.  There are a lot of people in the world that fit that profile. We need more people to be part of this village so they can offer ideas, solutions and thoughts about how to improve the system.

How have you seen your organization impact foster youth? Do you have any favorite stories about children whose wishes were granted?

Every wish granted is my favorite story!  I love the uniqueness of each wish so I don’t really have any favorites.  I think it’s great that our program doesn’t assume a need. We ask the kids what they want and we deliver. It’s very personal. It’s not charity; it’s support.  To date we’ve reached over 25,000 kids and we now partner with 500 agencies in 42 states.

On your website, you mention your bulldog, Duncan.  What has Duncan taught you that you’ve been able to use in your interactions with people?

I am obsessed with my dog. Duncan taught me that sometimes people just need you to be quiet and still and be there. I talk a lot and try to fix things. But when I’m sick or stressed, my dog senses it and just sits beside me.  His presence calms me, and I know he’s trying to just be there. I think we can all learn a lot from that. We don’t always need to fix things.  We can just show someone that we’re there.

One Simple Wish – a simple idea, simple to fulfill, which has brought joy to thousands of children and youth all across the country.  That’s why we salute Danielle Gletow, our October Foster Care Hero.

Read more success stories.

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You May Be Committing Check Fraud and Don’t Know It: What You Need to Know

| September 30th, 2013

Did you get a check in the mail from an organization or person you don’t know saying that you’ve won a lottery or contest or asking you to deposit it as a favor to them?

If you have, do not deposit into your account. It is a scam. “The lottery angle is a trick to get you to wire money to someone you don’t know,” said the Federal Trade Commissioncheck. “If you were to deposit the check and wire the money, your bank would soon learn that the check was a fake. And you’re out the money because the money you wired can’t be retrieved, and you’re responsible for the checks you deposit — even though you don’t know they’re fake.”

To avoid the counterfeit check scam, the Federal Trade Commission recommends you do the following:

  • Throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift. If it’s free or a gift, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Free is free.
  • Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. It’s illegal to play a foreign lottery through the mail or the telephone, and most foreign lottery solicitations are phony.
  • Know who you’re dealing with, and never wire money to strangers.
  • If you’re selling something, don’t accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting the offer or how convincing the story. Ask the buyer to write the check for the correct amount. If the buyer refuses to send the correct amount, return the check. Don’t send the merchandise.
  • As a seller, you can suggest an alternative way for the buyer to pay, like an escrow service or online payment service. There may be a charge for an escrow service. If the buyer insists on using a particular escrow or online payment service you’ve never heard of, check it out. Visit its website, and read its terms of agreement and privacy policy. Call the customer service line. If there isn’t one — or if you call and can’t get answers about the service’s reliability — don’t use the service.
  • If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank, or a bank with a local branch. That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid. If that’s not possible, call the bank where the check was purchased, and ask if it is valid. Get the bank’s phone number from directory assistance or an Internet site that you know and trust, not from the check or from the person who gave you the check.
  • If the buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the transaction immediately. Legitimate buyers don’t pressure you to send money by wire transfer services. In addition, you have little recourse if there’s a problem with a wire transaction.
  • Resist any pressure to “act now.” If the buyer’s offer is good now, it should be good after the check clears.
  • If you think you’ve been targeted by a counterfeit check scam, report it to he Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and your state or local consumer protection agencies. Visit www.naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General, or check the Blue Pages of your local telephone directory for appropriate phone numbers.

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College Admissions: Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins on Your Personal Essay By Alison Cooper Chisolm and Anna Ivey

| September 26th, 2013

We hope you enjoy this guest blog post.

College Admissions: Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins on Your Personal Essay
By Alison Cooper Chisolm and Anna Ivey,
Authors of How to Prepare a Standout College Application: Expert Advice that Takes You from LMO* (*Like Many Others) to Admit

2013 Aim Higher Fellows - 046Working on your personal essay for the Common Application? Want to avoid the critical mistakes that too many applicants make? Then steer clear of what we call the 7 Deadly Sins!

Sin #1. Your personal essay is not your work.

Your essay is expected to be your work, and if an admissions officer figures out that your essay is not your work, she will reject you. Don’t “hire out” your essay. Don’t copy or mimic a sample essay you find online (or in our book!). Don’t let a well-meaning editor (like your mom or dad) rewrite it or “tweak” it beyond all recognition. Write your personal essay yourself.

Sin #2. Your personal essay is not an essay.

Essays are specific forms of writing. You are asked to write an essay, so write an essay. Don’t write a poem. Don’t write a screenplay. Don’t write an academic treatise. Don’t write an autobiography. Write an essay.

Sin #3. Your personal essay is not personal.

Your personal essay is supposed to be PERSONAL. That means it should be about you, not about the person who influenced you, not about a political issue, not about a beautiful turn of phrase but about YOU.

Sin # 4. Your personal essay is not specific enough.

Your essay must be specific enough to be about you and only you. You are not the first, last, or only applicant who will write about your Mom or Dad when you pick the essay question asking you to write about a person who has had a significant influence on you. In fact, thousands of applicants will do just that every year. And that is perfectly fine, as long as your essay is distinctive enough that it wouldn’t work equally well for some other applicant.

Sin #5. Your personal essay is off-putting or worrisome.

Admissions officers read all components of an application with an eye for the applicant who is “off” in some way that could be threatening or disruptive in a college community. Diatribes don’t sit well with them, nor do personal essays that are just plain creepy (like an in-depth discussion of your fascination with serial murderers).

Sin #6. Your personal essay substantially exceeds the stated word limit.

If a word limit is given, you should adhere to it. It is disrespectful to simply ignore the directions you have been given. Regardless of how well written your 1,000 word essay is, if you were asked to write 500 words, you will be penalized for disrespecting those instructions. So follow the directions. Distill and clarify your thinking, and your writing, until your essay is within the word limits.

Sin #7. Your personal essay is not well written.

Misused words, grammatical errors, and typos are simply not acceptable. Your personal essay should be your best piece of writing ever. It should deserve an A++ from the most critical English teacher you have ever had (but make sure she understands that you’re not meant to be writing in term-paper language). Polish it until it becomes that A++ essay.

© 2013 Alison Cooper Chisolm and Anna Ivey, authors of How to Prepare a Standout College Application: Expert Advice that Takes You from LMO* (*Like Many Others) to Admit

Authors Bios

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey College Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in the book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley, August 2013), and follow them on Twitter @IveyCollege and Facebook.

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