From Foster Kid to College Scholar: Progams, financial help are in place to help Michigan’s foster children excel

One of the most important factors influencing whether or not a child will be successful in school and ultimately go on to college is stability at home – and stability, let alone a consistent home, are frequently among the many things lacking in the lives of Michigan’s foster children.

The result is a shocking statistic: only roughly ten percent of young adults in college fund by Tax Credits flickrfoster care go on to college – and of them, only two to three percent graduate. Fortunately, several Michigan universities are doing something about the problem and there are also numerous scholarships available to help ensure that current and former foster children have a better chance to succeed in college and become productive adults.

The most extensive such effort – not only in Michigan, but most likely in the entire US –  is Western Michigan University’s Seita Scholars program, which provides a full scholarship and extensive personal coaching to foster youth. At the time of this January 13, 2013 article, the program was serving 160 students from thirty-five counties across Michigan.

Michigan State, the University of Michigan, and Aquinas College have smaller-scale programs as well. In addition, the Michigan Department of Social Services has earmarked $600,000 for “independent living coaches” to assist several Michigan college students who have aged-out of foster care.

Are you about to age out of foster care, or are you a social service worker looking for options for wards of the court under your supervision who want to go to college? Here is a partial list of links to make searching a bit easier. Please email additional resources to Dawn Wolfe at dawnwolfe at the number fourteen ghz dot com for inclusion in later editions of this post.

Programs for foster youth at Michigan’s universities:

Other College Resources for Foster Youth:

Photo courtesy Tax Credits via flickr

Changing the lives of foster children one smile at a time

Maria Pinzon, D.D.S.Pinzon

I first heard about For The Seventh Generation and the possibility of working with metro area foster children when my patient Kelly Ramsey approached me in late 2004. Pro bono work has always been part of my practice, so I was happy to help, and thrilled when in early 2005, I started working with my first For The Seventh Generation referred patient, a fourteen year old girl named Jasmine.

When Jasmine first came to my office she was a shy, introverted young girl who had severe dental protrusion because of a childhood spent sucking her thumb. The first thing she and I worked on was getting her to stop the thumb-sucking habit. I explained braces wouldn’t help if she couldn’t stop relying on her thumb, and gave her resources to ultimately discontinue her habit. Six months later, Jasmine was ready to begin Orthodontic treatment.

One of the fantastic things about being an orthodontist is that I get to spend a substantial amount of time with my patients, interacting with and getting to know them as we work together on their treatment. Over the next year and a half, I watched Jasmine literally bloom into a self-confident, caring, giving individual. Jasmine told me all about her first babysitting job – and her plans to buy a present for her best friend with her first paycheck. As her teeth straightened and her smile became more attractive, she obviously started feeling better about herself and her prospects for the future.

It’s hard to imagine the things that foster children go through – and being able to help turn Jasmine’s entire life around, with something as minor as orthodontic treatment, was such a reward!

I lost contact with Jasmine after we finished her treatment, but a few years later I saw her at a For The Seventh Generation fundraising event. Jasmine looked beautiful! During the event, she spoke about the difference that For The Seventh Generation made in her life, and I felt a lot of pride knowing I was part of that difference. Today, Jasmine is in college and plans to become an attorney advocating for the next generation of children in foster care.

I worked with another young woman in foster care after completing Jasmine’s treatment, and I learned that not every young person is as resilient and ready to turn his or her life around as Jasmine was. But whether or not we as volunteers are able to bond with our patients as I did with Jasmine, we are still changing young lives for the better.

If you’re considering providing volunteer services to a metro Detroit-area foster child or family, I encourage you to make the commitment. For The Seventh Generation makes the process easy – and however you choose to contribute your time and effort, I guarantee that working with this organization will change your life for the better.

I am currently completing treatment on several pro bono patients, and am looking forward to working with more foster children referred by For The Seventh Generation. Please join in, one child at a time. We as professionals really can leave a positive effect on our community for the next seven generations!

For more about Jasmine’s story, check out this video from the FTSG Facebook page:

 

Getting the Goods for Metro Detroit’s Foster Children – Help Closet Coordinator Shirley Roseman

Shirley Roseman shows off some of our Help Closet items to vounteer Deb Fedon-Keyt

Shirley (right) shows volunteer Deb Fedon-Keyt around the Help Closet

“Lorraine Weber and Kelly Ramsey’s mission to meet the needs of our area’s foster children tugged at my heart,” says For The Seventh Generation Help Closet Coordinator and all-round Angel of Making Things Happen Shirley Roseman. “I have a heart for children, especially children in need, and working with this organization is right down my alley with the new career I’m pursuing in non-profit administration and management.”

In addition to managing the Help Closet, Shirley also plays a key role matching donors who have signed up with the FTSG database with the requests we’ve received from metro-Detroit area foster care workers.

“One of the things I try to do is make a match with the goods and services that are donated,” she explains. “First, foster care workers or “referrers” create an online account to let us know what they need for the children they’re working with. Then I look at our database of donors who have or are able to donate those items or services to let them know we have a foster child in need. After I check to make sure the donor is still available and willing, I give the referrer a call and let them know we have a match for them. I’m also available to help with any questions or issues that might arise during the donation process.”

Since she came on board, Shirley has also been going above and beyond when it comes to reaching out to potential donors of everything from beds and bedding to Karate lessons.

“I was expecting that our foster children would need clothing and outerwear, but I never thought that there would be such a shortage of beds!,” she says. “We currently have quite a few requests for beds and cribs – many times when I talk with workers I hear that the children they’re serving don’t have adequate sleeping arrangements. One of my quests is to find a company or manufacturer that would partner with us to take their discontinued or returned items,” so that our area’s foster children can benefit from a good night’s sleep every night.

As for the Karate lessons, Shirley called around and found a dojo owner to fill an older request. “We were able to generate a new service – I want foster workers to know they can ask for all sorts of goods and services and we will do our best fill those needs.”

Shirley also reports that she’s in the process of matching an orthodontist who has volunteered to provide two foster children with urgently-needed orthodontic care – another ongoing need because Medicaid doesn’t pick up the cost of such services for children and young adults in the foster care system.

Before Shirley joined us, she spent the majority of her career as a salesperson in real estate.  In her spare time, she gave a significant amount of hours volunteering for non-profit organizations and community events around the Detroit Metropolitan area and still remains active today. “Non profit work is my true passion,” she says.

Can you help metro Detroit’s foster children with a donation of (new or nearly-new) goods or services? Just click here to learn about donation and/or volunteering options, or contact Shirley Roseman at info@fortheseventhgeneration.org for more information.