I call the 18th birthday the day you become a legal adult. You still have one more “teen year” but you can vote and sign your own medical consent forms. When your 20th birthday arrives you are no longer a teenager but unable to legally purchase alcohol and still carded for cigarettes in most states. Then it arrives – your 21st birthday – you can party in Vegas and gamble in the sin city casinos. (PS…I don’t recommend cigarettes, alcohol, or gambling – I do recommend voting!) Age really is just a number. We are all individual beings who have traveled unique journeys. None of us are guaranteed to have the skills and resources to thrive independently just because our birthday clock reaches 18 or 21.
Today is National Drop Everything and Read Day (D.E.A.R.)
What is D.E.A.R.?
D.E.A.R. stands for “Drop Everything and Read,” a national month-long celebration of reading designed to remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives. Because, what’s more fun(damental) than reading, really?
When is D.E.A.R. celebrated?
D.E.A.R. programs have been held nationwide on April 12th in honor of Beverly Cleary’s birthday, since she first wrote about D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 .
So, go ahead and join the millions of families, schools, bookstores, and communities who have participated throughout the years and pledge to “drop” what you’re doing in order to read a good book.
I challenge you to drop everything and read about the triumph and accomplishments of successful foster care alumni. Here is my reading “to do” list:
From Foster Care to Fabulous: An Imperative Movement by Capri C. Cruz
Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people “age out” of the U.S. foster care system. Many are only 18 years old, have not experienced consistent nurturing and stability, and still need support and services. Several foster care alumni studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, these older youth face challenges to making a successful transition to adulthood. As adults, children who spent long periods of time in multiple foster care homes were more likely than other children to drop out of school, be unemployed, become incarcerated, and become young parents.
How do the words identity, mobile, and transient relate to the life or plight of teens in foster care? Do you have similar thoughts when you read the descriptions of family life below?
50SkateKid is about the adventure eleven-year-old Logan who, accompanied by his dad, skateboarded in all 50 states. Logan’s parents wanted to encourage “hands on” learning and pursuing one’s passion. Logan spent his sixth-grade year learning about his country, about skateboarding and about putting dreams into action. The ride began in Wilmot Flat, NH, on September 1, 2009, and ended in Washington DC in May 2010.
We are all aware of the sad statistics and educational obstacles that youth in foster care encounter. A student must adjust to different curricula, different school culture, different teachers, and different peers each time they enter a new school. Regularly changing schools often has negative social, emotional, and academic effects on youth already burdened by past trauma. Many young people in foster care are diagnosed with learning disabilities, are over-medicated, are placed in remedial classes, must repeat grades, or must contend with low expectations overall. These experiences often result in minimal academic achievement or youth dropping out of high school. It has been reported that less than 70% of youth in foster care finish high school before leaving care.
Improving educational outcomes for youth in care is a critical component to increased emotional well-being, a smoother transition into adulthood, and long-term economic security. Today I want to continue our academic empowerment blog series with additional strategies to help students do their best in school.
Years ago I worked in a school-based program and at the start of each new school year I organized a parent workshop related to helping your child have a successful school year. Topics included things like the importance of school and home partnership, parent-teacher conferences, homework and study tips, understanding your child’s report card, and the roles of pupil personnel workers and guidance counselors. I also offered similar parent engagement workshops in the community.
There were cyclical patterns that emerged each school year. I could count on high stress levels of parents and students in the transitioning grades – 5th, 8th, and 12th. I learned to anticipate a flood of requests for tutors and mentors once the third semester report card was distributed. And about this time of year as students take midterm exams and begin to select courses for next school year I would be asked the question “is it better to get a B in a harder/advanced class than an A in an easier/regular class?” My answer has always remained the same – it depends on the student. School can be very demanding. Academic, social, and emotional pressures affect each person in unique ways and each person’s academic ability and stress threshold is different. Each student should be evaluated individually based on their interests, strengths, and personal motivations.
Mastering certain life skills is essential to successful independent living. Life skills includes more than learning how to prepare a meal, drive a car, schedule a doctor’s appointment, or dress for a job interview. Our last blog post explored Common Core Standards And Youth In Foster Care. The Common Core Standards are skills acquired for use both inside and outside of the classroom. A key aspect of the Common Core Standards is to support educators in teaching students how to apply the knowledge they learn in school in the real world.
Major Common Core Standards Categories are:
– Life and Career Skills
– Flexibility and Adaptability
– Initiative and Self-Direction
– Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
– Productivity and Accountability
– Leadership and Responsibility
We’re not a full month past the most celebrated holiday season and most of us have to admit that family celebrations can be stressful. You may not have wanted to invite the sister who criticizes everyone, the uncle who challenges everyone to an arm wrestling match, the aunt who uses profanity at the dinner table, or the cousin who drinks too much. Most of us invited them anyway.
Family bonds are powerful. Blood connections often leave us vulnerable and impressionable. There is no such thing as a perfect family. All families have disagreements, misunderstandings, secrets, and trials. Different personalities, values, goals, ways of raising children, and any number of other differences can lead to difficulty within a family unit. Many people are estranged from their families and go years without speaking or engaging with their relatives. Some people set new boundaries and limit their contact while others can’t seem to break away and find themselves getting hurt repeatedly.