Our Children

“My teacher said I could go to college if I applied myself, but I don’t see how it would be possible, so what’s the point?”

– Jason, age 17

On any given day, there are more than 600 children in foster care in Santa Barbara County, and over 500,000 nationally. They are children like Jason, who has moved from one end of the county to another – attending 5 different high schools in the past 3 years, due to changing foster care placements. This frequent upheaval in their lives, usually coupled with a background of abuse or neglect, conspire to make academic success extremely difficult.

Jason is frustrated. At each new school, he discovers he is in a different place in the curriculum than his classmates. Teachers struggle to help him catch up, or to keep him challenged if he is ahead of the rest of the class. Jason is also reluctant to make friends. He knows from bitter experience that any friends he makes are likely to be gone forever when he moves – again. Jason has begun to give up on himself academically and socially, and certainly does not believe he could attend college, even if he could find a way financially.

Sadly, stories like Jason’s are not unusual. Studies reveal that a typical adolescent foster youth moves between homes an average of 10 times, and attends five or six different high schools. As a consequence, national statistics find that:

  • 83% of foster youth are held back by the third grade;
  • 75% complete class work below grade level;
  • 35% are in special education;
  • On average, less than 50% of foster children graduate from high school; and
  • Although 70% of foster teens express a desire to go to college, fewer than 3% actually enroll. 

Did You Know?

There are approximately 700 children in the foster care system in Santa Barbara County. National statistics* tell us that:

Foster youth change schools about once every six months, and lose an average of four to six months of educational attainment each time they move schools;

  • 75% of children and youth in foster care are behind grade level;
  • Approximately 50% of foster youth do not graduate high school;
  • 25% of former foster youth are incarcerated within the first 2 years of emancipation;
  • Within 18 months of emancipation, 40-50% of foster youth are homeless; and
  • At least 37% of surveyed former foster youth, aged 19-25, live below the poverty line,   and nearly 50% accept some kind of public assistance.
  • These discouraging outcomes tell us our foster teens are leaving the system under   educated and lacking the skills so vital to their future.

*For sources on the national statistics and to learn more about educational outcomes for foster youth visit ourwhite paper page.