Child Welfare Ideas from the Experts #5: Mentoring and College Support for Foster Youth

Jordan Sosa, 23, a graduate of California State University-Fullerton

The Chronicle of Social Change is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI), a group of 10 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.

The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the FYI participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C. Today we highlight the recommendation of Jordan Sosa, 23, a graduate of California State University-Fullerton.

The Proposal

Sosa is proposing three new grant programs. One would authorize funds for comprehensive support programs for current and former foster youth on college campuses; one to fund mentoring programs for foster youth; and one for school-based mentoring to assist at-risk middle school and high school students.

The latter two grant programs are already parts of pending legislation in Congress: the Foster Youth Mentoring Act, and the Mentoring to Succeed Act (S. 1658).

The Argument

Sosa’s argument is a straightforward one. Most of the adults in the life of a foster youth – social workers, lawyers, etc. – are paid to be there in some professional capacity. This leads, he says, to a “pervasive lack of focus on cultivating meaningful relationships between the young people and other adults who could help guide and support them.”

Supporting mentoring programs that focus on foster youth in their homes and at school can help some of them access positive adult relationships.

In His Own Words

“My transition out of foster care was challenging. During my first year at California State University-Fullerton. I struggled to find a supportive community and felt intimidated by the college environment.

Tools for Transformation, the most recent set of policy proposals from the Foster Youth Internship Program

I feel lucky that in my second year I was accepted into the Guardian Scholars Program, a comprehensive support program exclusively for current and former foster youth, which provided much-needed financial support and, even more important, connected me with individuals who had spent time in foster care and helped me recognize my self-worth.”

The Chronicle’s Take

Recent research showed that while a growing number of college campuses do have support networks exclusively for foster youth, many, many more do not have such services. Sosa participated in Guardian Scholars, probably the most entrenched and long-running support system for foster youth on college campuses.

The program is currently available to students at nearly three dozen California campuses. Also of interest from California: Friends of the Children, which uses full-time mentors to serve at-risk and low-income youth, recently launched a program solely focused on mentoring foster youths in the Los Angeles area.

Sosa is not the first Foster Youth Intern to propose adult supports aimed at helping youth prepare for their own adulthood. His arguments echo well the arguments of another FYI alum, Amnoni Myers, about the need to further investment in the social capital of foster youth.

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