Washington, DC – There have always been orphans: children who lose their parents to physical or mental illness, incarceration, death, or other life-shattering circumstances. And there will always be orphans — except today they don’t enter orphanages, they enter foster care.
On Tuesday, Orphan Foundation of America (OFA) — the oldest and largest national provider of college funding and support services for foster youth — formally announced their name change to Foster Care to Success Foundation (FC2S), as well as the launch of their new website (www.fc2success.org) and a national campaign to change the lives of older foster youth.
According to the organization, the results of a national survey they recently conducted with both foster youth in their program and the general public was a call to action. Only 25 percent of foster youth surveyed said volunteers provided tutoring, mentoring or enrichment activities during their middle and high school years, yet 97 percent believe volunteer involvement would help them develop talents and interests and learn more about the connection between education and career goals. Meanwhile, 91 percent of the general public surveyed said they would consider volunteering.
FC2S’ campaign will help bridge the gap between college-bound foster youth and caring adults. The organization hopes to better facilitate public support and engagement through the launch of their new website (www.fc2success.org) and social media communities.
“I don’t think people can imagine how hard it is to be in college when you don’t have family helping you,” said Cristyl M., a student at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada.
“Eighteen or even 21 is too young to be on your own without a support system,” added Eileen McCaffrey, Foster Care to Success’ Executive Director.
FC2S provides 3,500 young people annually with $15M in college scholarships and grants; care packages and family-like support; academic and personal mentoring; and internships and employment readiness skills. Sixty-one percent of their scholarship students complete a degree program within five years.
“Alone, foster youth are not ready to make education, lifestyle and financial decisions that will ensure a better future,” McCaffrey said. “We need to mobilize as a nation to support them through these first years of independence, and make sure they, like our own children, not only have opportunities to learn and grow, but understand and embrace those opportunities.”
Foster Care to Success was founded as OFA in 1981 to help older foster youth and orphans move through higher education to successful adulthood. Nationally, over 25,000 foster youth “age out” of the system annually. Only half will graduate from high school, and less than 10 percent will ever complete college.
According to FC2S, with appropriate support, however, these young people can beat the odds. Since 1981, the national nonprofit has connected with over 50,000 foster youth to help them navigate the transition from foster youth to college student or working adult.
“Our graduation rate is overwhelming proof that with the same emotional and financial support that other young people receive, foster youth can be just as successful,” McCaffrey said. “They are very resilient and very capable.”
The new Foster Care to Success website (www.fc2success.org) will educate the public on the challenges foster youth face and propose solutions on an individual, community and national level. It will also offer volunteer and sponsorship opportunities; provide resources for those involved in the foster care system; and spotlight the stories of successful young people and allies such as foster parents, agency workers, educators, and volunteers.