It's back to school time around here and an unfortunate statistic that sticks in our minds is that only 50% of kids experiencing foster care graduate high school. So much preparation that most people don't even think about goes into getting kids across that finish line. But for kids experiencing foster care, those basic benchmarks are not guaranteed and definitely don't come naturally.
Before any great strides can be made, there needs to be a baseline of NORMALCY. Because when a child's entire being is fight/flight/freeze, academic success is not at the top of the priority list - or even possible, oftentimes. They are truly just surviving.
When kids who experience foster care frequently change homes, caregivers, towns, schools and their familiar environments, it can be hard to feel stable.
Hard to feel normal - let alone thrive.
The goals of our Dare to Dream Program are to provide children with typical childhood experiences, helping to promote positive mental health, emotional well-being, and identity formation - and eventually, encouraging teens toward overall better academic performance, and increased college participation.
To get there though, they start with basics - things like: building rapport, positive and healthy relationships, building confidence and self-worth, and building healthy habits.
Normalcy has become something Dare to Dream volunteer, KC Upshaw focuses on with the youth she is mentoring. The young teen's life has been in so much transition over the last year, that KC has become a trusted and consistent adult in her life.
"I was raised with the understanding that education is very important, but I was shocked to feel so differently with her...School is so far down on the priority list right now because everything else is chaos.
✅ Making sure she has a bed to sleep in is a priority.
✅ Making sure she knows where dinner is coming from is a priority.
No one is getting her up for school in the morning or making sure she’s doing her homework.
How is she supposed to thrive without consistency - without normalcy?
School will be a priority later on, but during this time of transition, it’s just not the priority."
Instead, the pair do a lot of everyday things together. Her mentee asked if they could get together on Memorial Day, but KC already had plans to be at a barbecue with her 95-year-old grandmother - so her mentee came along.
KC will invite her to work out with her and pick meals to cook together. They window shop downtown and get boba tea - normal kid experiences for a kid her age. The teen recently asked to do a Harry Potter movie night (KC agreed, but insisted on introducing her to popcorn from The Rose as well). Normalcy.
"She's been lost in the shuffle for most of her life..." but KC focuses on consistency, being present, and *really listening* to her mentee. "I’m about her. She is the most important thing to me when I am with her. I am a firm believer in chosen family and friendship, and we are a big part of each other’s lives."
KC is extending her regular routine, life, and heart to her mentee. With this foundation of stability and as the teen gets a little older, KC will focus on academics and the other milestones that will set the teen up for success and change her trajectory in life. 💫
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