When the pandemic struck, over 4,000 foster care youth who were high school seniors in California suddenly left their high schools and started remote learning. Most didn’t have a laptop or internet connectivity and many were at the crucial tail end of the college application and financial aid process.
These foster youth were on their own, without parents to help them navigate the uncertainty or logistics of remote learning, college deadlines and more. Without an immediate response, the graduation and college dreams of the Class of 2020 would have remained just that: dreams, and not a reality.
John Burton Advocates for Youth stepped in to ensure that COVID-19 didn’t undo the years of hard work that foster youth who are high school seniors have put into reaching college.
First, we mobilized a network of county educators, to ensure that students complete the all-important Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If this form isn’t complete, there is no financial aid and for foster youth, that means no college. As of May7th, 57% of foster youth have completed the FAFSA, the same rate as the general population of students in California. At the same point in 2019, the completion rate for foster youth was just 45%.
Second, John Burton Advocates for Youth stepped in to advocate to the California Department of Education to make foster youth a priority for the distribution of laptops. We are making progress, working with the California Office of Surplus to direct thousands of laptop computers to foster youth.
Youth in foster care are fighters. They have fought hard through abuse, trauma and instability and we’re going to keep fighting alongside them until they reach college and beyond.