Orangewood Op-Ed Article - July 2011
The Untold Graduation Story
Almost half of teens in foster care do not graduate from high school.
Inspiring graduation stories abound this time of year
happy stories of those who made it. But
what about those who don’t?
According to statistics, 46% of California teens leaving the foster care system have notcompleted high school versus 16% of the general population.
Rescuing children from anabusive home and placing them into the protective care of the foster care system is aresponsibility that we as
a society have assumed. But when almost half don’t graduate from high
school, we are failing these children.Making a successful transition from foster care to independent adulthood is challenging for most
teens. They don’t have
the emotional or financial support of a stable family. Without a highschool diploma, the challenges are even greater.
Former foster youth are over-representedamong incarcerated, unemployed, and homeless populations.
Seventy percent of Californiastate penitentiary inmates have been in foster care. Fifty-one percent of California foster youthare unemployed within 2-4 years of emancipation. Foster children comprise less than 0.3% of
California’s population and yet 40% of persons living in homeless shelters are former foster
children.One of the key contributors to the low graduation rates among foster teens is instability.
Toooften foster teens do not have stable living and learning environments during their highschool years.
In Orange County, more than half of all teens in foster care have been in thesystem for more than 24 months. Of those, 83% have experienced three or more placements. Asa result, they have difficulty forming positive connections with others. A new placementfrequently means a new high school. Studies have shown that it takes 4-6 months for a child torecover academically after changing schools.
At Orangewood Children’s Foundation we have 30 years of experience working with
childrenand teens in foster care. In recent polls among the over 600 foster youth who visit our on-siteresource center annually, we
that a number of our foster teens have experienced manyplacements and high schools. One former foster youth, Jason, had 15 different placements duringhis adolescent years! This is unacceptable.
Providing the stability foster care teens need to successfully complete high school ISpossible.
For our part, Orangewood Children’s Foundation is creating a residential high school
that will offer Orange County foster youth the very best education available in a stable andnurturing setting. It will offer the stability and connectedness that these teens have been lacking.We believe this is one positive move among many that needs to be taken immediately.Over 30 years ago, the community rallied around the need for a safe, peaceful shelter built