Foster Care Receiving Attention with Exciting New Ventures

Weir2010Every Child’s Hope was a great success. We had more than 100 people stop to learn about foster parenting and the speakers were tremendous. Very inspirational. I really do appreciate those who gave of their time for this event.

We had another event on Saturday that was more successful than even I imagined. We kicked off a partnership with the University of Cincinnati that we hope will lead to more of our foster children going on to higher education. The Higher Education Mentoring Initative is currently recuriting mentors to help foster youth attain academic success in high school and transition to a higher education environment. Here’s something I wrote about it for our newsletter:

How are these for depressing statistics?

• 25 percent of foster children are incarcerated within first two years of leaving the child welfare system
• 20 percent become homeless
• 58 percent complete high school; compared to 87 percent of general population
• 3 percent earn college degrees; compared to 28 percent of general population

Those statistics, compliments of a 2004 Pew Commission report, tell a sad tale. Other studies show that foster youth also have disproportionately high rates of early pregnancy, sexual and physical victimization, mental illness and substance abuse. The path is clear: broken children lead to failed adults and a burdened community.

The annual financial toll of even the cheapest problem costs the U.S. billions. The human toll is incalculable. Broken children lead to failed adults and a burdened community.

Some in Cincinnati are saying this is unacceptable. They are stepping up to help foster children. They are willing to invest now, so the community does not have to pay later.

JFS, Hamilton County Commissioners, the University of Cincinnati and other interested parties have united to form The Higher Education Mentoring Initiative. The idea behind the initiative is to reduce delinquency and help prepare foster children for post-secondary education.

More than that, it seeks to provide hope.

If poverty is a root cause of social problems, then education and higher income are the answer. According to recent statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, workers with bachelor’s degrees earned a mean income of $57,181 in 2007. Those with high school degrees earned $31,286. That is more than a $1 million difference over the course of a lifetime. In the city of Cincinnati, 75 percent of residents over age 25 do not have a bachelor’s degree. Less than one-third of our eligible foster children graduate high school.

National studies show 70 percent of foster youth want to go to college. But for most, it will never happen. A Casey Foundation study estimates less than 13 percent will actually enroll in college; only 2-3 percent will obtain bachelor’s degrees.

While many foster parents open their homes or heart to foster children, higher education is usually not a frequent topic of discussion. Finding a place to sleep or something to eat is the main objective. Either the foster parents themselves have little experience with higher education, or the assumption that it is unaffordable makes it an uncomfortable topic.

And, for most, it is unaffordable. The Congressional Research Services reports that parents in the general population give their children a total of $38,000 between the ages of 18-34 to help with tuition, housing and other expenses. For most foster children, this type of assistance is not available.

The HEMI seeks to help foster youth graduate high school and transition to higher learning by supporting them with a mentor and financial assistance. The partnership between Hamilton County and the University of Cincinnati will recruit, train and support mentors to establish long-term, positive relationships with about 50 Hamilton County foster youth each year. The mentors will assist, encourage and support academic achievement in high school, as well as post-secondary education. The mentoring relationship will be formal, with results tracked and measured.

UC will provide additional support through social work students and an on-campus liaison to foster children. The initiative will also seek a pool of available funds to help support the academic and life needs of foster children as they progress through the higher education experience. Private businesses will be asked to provide both mentoring and financial support.

Mentors will be asked to commit two hours per week of personal interaction to each mentee. They’ll also be asked to be available for additional contact via telephone, e-mail, texting, etc. And, once a month, they will attend a monthly HEMI social activity. Mentors will be required to keep a contact log.

To prepare the mentors, a one-time six hour training will be devised, along with a three-hour quarterly training. All mentors will undergo complete background checks to ensure the safety of mentees.

We are extremely excited about this initiative and the long-term impact it can have on our children. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact program coordinator Rayma Waters at 513-556-0104 or To make a financial donation or host a short “Lunch and Learn” for employees or organizational membership to learn more about mentoring, contact Brian Gregg at 513-946-1728 or

by Jim Tinker

Filed Under: Communication