Human trafficking is a growing concern not just in the United States but in the entire world. Often times, public perception is that slave labor is primarily a major issue in developing countries. However, the reality is there is a gradual trend in our own American backyard: an increasingly large number of foster kids being sex trafficked. Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is the most common form of human trafficking in America and runaway and homeless youth, namely foster kids, are its primary victims.
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as inducing any child under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sex. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that one in six endangered runaways were likely to be sex trafficking victims in 2014. In 2013, it was one in seven.
However, no matter how harrowing these statistics may be, it is believed the actual numbers are likely worse.
A recently released federal study found that more than half of America’s homeless youth became homeless for the first time after a parent or caregiver forced them to leave. But for foster kids, the results of the study are even more startling. Almost half the homeless youth across the country have previously been in foster care.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, polled 873 youth, ages 14-21, in 11 cities, including New York City and Chicago. The goal of the study was to obtain information on service utilizations and needs from the homeless youth.
There is no getting around the cost of college for a prospective student. It’s expensive and it’s likely only getting pricier as you’re reading this. But all hope is not lost. Even if you’re in a situation where you don’t have mom and dad’s checkbook to fall back on– a circumstance that many foster youth can relate to– you can still find ways to afford school. It all starts with searching for private scholarships.
There is money out there and it’s waiting for you.
Believe it or not, across the country there are organizations solely dedicated to providing money for youth to attend college. The key is finding them and completing an application.
Foster youth, like most teens preparing for college, might not have the first clue where or when to start looking for scholarships. But unlike most prospective students, foster teens might not have someone in their home to guide them through a somewhat complicated process. Continue reading
Student loan debt is a rising reality all across the country. Debt now totals more than $1 trillion for American students and, according to a newly released report, it’s being caused by low-income students at two-year community colleges and for-profit schools. For foster youth looking to pursue post-secondary education, the reality of student loans cannot be ignored.
To anyone attending a post-secondary institution, the cost of college is no surprise. The ever-escalating price tag is difficult to manage for any prospective student, and it’s especially hard if you don’t have an adult to help you through an undeniably complicated process.
This is the situation many foster youth find themselves dealing with as they apply for financial aid. And given the recently released report from The Brookings Institute, it’s critically important foster youth understand what they’re signing up for.
According to the report: “By 2011…borrowers at for-profit and 2-year institutions represented almost half of student-loan borrowers leaving school and starting to repay loans, and accounted for 70 percent of student loan defaults.” Continue reading
Without dramatic changes and a structured approach, the college graduation rate for students who have lived in foster care will remain one of the lowest in the country at 3 percent, according to a recently released study from the University of the Pacific.
The study examined seven foster youth’s experiences over a nearly three semester journey through a California community college. It concluded that there was an extreme lack of guidance for foster youth, a problem given that many youths in care are dependent on structured institutional programs.
“Simply having a dedicated person whom foster youth can go to and ask questions — something many of these young people have never had — could really make a difference to their college success,” said study co-author Melinda Westland.
Foster Youth and College: NJFC and Project MYSELF
While the issue of guidance may be a problem nationally for youth who have lived in foster care, New Jersey does provide places for these youths to go and get answers. The New Jersey Foster Care (NJFC) Scholars Program provides financial and educational assistance for eligible youth while also supplying a supportive coaching relationship through Project MYSELF. Continue reading
While most of her peers were worrying about earning a place on the soccer team, making new friends and passing the next algebra test, Kristine Gunningham was facing far bigger obstacles.
First, her parents separated. It was difficult for Kristine to come to terms with the idea that her mother and father might never be together again. But what happened next was still more traumatizing.
“Shortly after my parents separated my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer.” Kristine said.
Nothing could be more devastating for a 14-year-old girl. Continue reading