Some of the best childhood memories are made in the classroom or on the playground.
Now imagine the stress of being academically challenged, or of never having the chance to be part of an after-school club.
That is often the reality for the hundreds of children who are in foster care in Collier County.
Friends of Foster Children Forever is working to make sure that the approximately 400 children in foster care have the chance to enjoy the same memories and experiences as other children through a variety of strategic programs that support the child’s emotional, social and educational wellbeing from birth through graduation so that they can succeed in life.
The need is staggering: on average, foster care children in Collier County spend one full school year – 187 days – in the foster care system, and are often moved 4-6 times. Not only does this instability often lead to emotional trauma, but more than half of the children under age five experience some kind of developmental delay.
Sadly, only 50 percent of children in the foster care system graduate from high school and 20 percent become homeless after they age out of the system when they turn 18.
While the statistics are alarming, Friends of Foster Children Forever is determined to make a brighter tomorrow for these children by helping to develop their educational and emotional skills, offering tutoring, and providing fun, enrichment programs such as summer camps, music or sports lessons.
More than 50 percent of foster children are under the age of five. It’s a time when the foundations of education are established.
Early learning centers expose children to a language-rich setting and offer activities that promote math and reading skills. With the cost of early learning centers as high as $10,500 per year, per child, Friends of Foster Children Forever helps to connect foster caregivers with funding opportunities to pay for this important education.
As a result of the frequent moves that foster children have to endure many fall behind in school.
On average, foster children are set back six months academically every time they experience a placement change or other traumatic event. This can create frustration, embarrassment, depression, and poor self-esteem.
Friends of Foster Children Forever’s Academic Mentors provide one-to-one tutoring and guidance. Recent results have been encouraging because they show that as a result of the Academic Mentors program, 100 percent of students improve in at least one core subject and more than a quarter of students improve in four core subjects.
Sports teams, extracurricular events and weekend activities help children make new friends, develop new skills and discover their passions.
Friends of Foster Care Forever’s Project Enrichment helps to pay for these opportunities, as well as summer camps, field trips, sports participation, music lessons, holiday and birthday gifts. The program also ensures foster care students are prepared with school supplies.
“Foster children are some of the most vulnerable children in our area,” said Ann Hughes, executive director. Hughes continued,“They have been removed from their homes, families and friends. We try to do everything we can to make their lives happier while they are going through this difficult time. When we see a smile on their faces we know we are making a difference.”