Archive for May, 2012
.Recently i have been thinking about the graduation balloons I have been seeing around my neighborhood and the graduation parties, the graduation hoopla, and ultimately the graduation that many kids get to experience. I read that almost 80% of kids graduate high school within 4 years and the trend is increasing, and more than that eventually graduate
…. And then i thought, shit, only 34-54% of aged-out foster kids graduate highschool… does anyone see a problem here?
….besides the shitty experience of growing up in foster care and never being adopted, so many foster kids miss out on rituals that define growing up…
Follow me here…. and please make it to the end…
1. The Act of Graduating
Walking across the stage in front of friends, teachers, loved ones … graduating. Celebrating an accomplishment that 87% of the US population takes part in (Percentage here).
- no calling of your name of the speaker
- no shaking hands with important people
- no getting the dipolma thing in your own hands
- no tassle
- no gown
- no WOOHOO or cheers from the audience
- no goofy pictures
- no pomp and circumstance
- no throwing a hat in the air
- no practicing the walk in
- no… being part of “The Class of —-”
I never heard of this. But apparently some schools celebrate all week or more… the senior class has picnics, games, and goes to a lake or an amusement park or someplace “fun”….events leading up to graduation. Time to be together with “your class” to reminince about old times and make new memories. Time to celebrate your success.. Senior week for the The Class of —- .
I know what they are. I dont have any. People sign yearbooks with special notes or good wishes. Each highschool senior has their own page where they could select pictures or sayings or things they wanted in the book. The senior class also votes for things like:
- favorite song
- most athletic people, smartest people, funniest people, most likely to succeed people, etc. (personally i am not a fan of popularity contests, but i guess it is a “normal” high school thing.)
- favorite movie
- most important world event
- favorite school lunch
So it seems a yearbook is more than just a book… but a process of making decisions as a group and being part of that group, of belonging to “The Class of —–”…
4. The Opportunity to Attend the Prom
I dont know how many people goto proms, but that really is not the point. The point is if you dont graduate highschool or become a junior or senior, you really are not likely to goto a prom. If you don’t have a stable home, you really aren’t likely to goto a prom. If you are broke, you are not likely to goto the prom. You dont have a chance to make those “memories” or have the experience
- no fancy clothes
- no fancy dinner
- no flowers
- no pictures
- no silly dances
And if you think “it doesn’t matter,” here is one of my favorite adoption blogger’s son going to the prom. They look happy. They look excited. Shit, they even have matching tie and dress! It’s part of being a teenager.
Seems this prom thing is a whole weekend thing. And for kids that are “too cool” or “too emo” or whatever, there are “anti-prom” parties too. See its a culture, prom or anti-prom! Guess what? Many foster kids dont get to choose prom or anti-prom… we dont get those choices.
5. Class Rings
Again another “little sign” of belonging to something… “Class of 2012″ ring. You get a ring if you are a senior. If you never make it to being a senior or graduating, or don’t have money, you never get a ring. 50-60% of highschool students buy a class ring (Rings)
I didnt realize until i googled “class rings” that you can choose things you want on your ring. It can reflect who you are… then i realized, even if i had the opportunity to get a class ring, what would mine reflect… being alone, unwanted, stupid, not involved in anything, constantly moving homes, bad, worthless, etc. …. Maybe i really would not have wanted one…
They are very expensive according to what i googled, so i am not even sure how a foster kid would afford one, but for approximately half of aged-out foster kids, it was never a choice anyway…
It might have come in handy on the streets. i could have pawned it for some cash… and gotten some donuts and a big bag of weed to last me a couple days. on the streets, the ring on my finger would have been a waste… much better for me to toke my problems away.
I once read that friends from the years growing up are most likely to stay friends. I cant find the reference, but i read it. The point was that basically growing up together formed a bond that would last.
Most aged-out foster kids dont grow up with the stable “friends” because most are moved around so much. Living in multiple homes, attending multiple schools is not conducive to making life-long friends. I had no friends. Honestly. I moved so much that i gave up trying… because i never knew if i was going to be there tomorrow.
I have no memories with friends. I have memories of being alone and an “outsider.” I have memories of sitting on the bleachers after school and watching the band practice and wanting so bad to be part of “that group” … but i wasnt. I have memories of waiting for my foster parents to pick me up and watching the track team jump up and down as they walked to practice, laughing, having fun. I have memories of sitting alone at lunch…sometimes the emo kids would talk with me. I have memories of sitting in detention for cutting class, walking out of class, or smoking in the bathroom… all done because i felt alone. I have memories of sitting in the back of the room watching kids flirt and go through the natural processes of being teens, while i was hiding. I have memories of being so different, of being the “home kid,” of not belonging. I hated myself and felt like such an outsider, i wasnt able to have stable friends…
I’ve written about this before. Not graduating means not learning everything you should have in highschool. Not having a stable school or home makes it hard to focus on learning details. I am a testament to this. i missed so much. Remember my blog about my workplace making fun of me because i had no clue who governement was made up of. Ah. Yeah. i dont. i mostly remember sitting in class trying to figure out if i was going to be in the same school next week. When i aged-out, all i could think about was where i was going to sleep and what food i could score.
“in general, children and youth in foster care get lower grades and score lower on standardized tests than their peers (Christian, 2004). For example, Blome (1997) found that most youth in foster care receive “C” grades, compared to control groups, which receive a mix of “B” and “C” grades. In another study, youth in foster care who had completed the 10th or 11th grades were reading, on average, at only a seventh grade level (Courtney, et al., 2004).” (REF)
This is a HUGE problem.
Before you say, “who cares, highschool stinks,” remember that you got the chance to experience many of the above and you do have those memories and experiences. You went through the rituals that makes someone a “normal” highschool kid. Many aged-out foster kids dont. And yes, all this matters because when you graduate highschool, you are part of a group; you are the ‘Class of ____”
Crap, all foster kids should have a class; they should all graduate from highschool or tradeschool. This may mean providing longer stays in foster care, more tutoring, extra effort on worker’s part to get the records to the schools asap, teacher involvement and caring, foster parent help and support of schooling, and even mental health support. Take it from me…. Once you are “out” of any school, it’s hard to go back.
Foster parents — BUY the yearbooks. BUY the prom dress. BUY the class ring. Let your foster child be as “normal” as possible. If you can’t afford the items, start saving. Offer to pay 1/2 if the foster teen pays the other. Ask your workers. Sometimes they have “pots” of money for special items. I have seen those prom dresses at Goodwill. They are barely worn.
Are you getting my message?
Not being part of a “Class of _____” is just another example of not belonging. Don’t foster kids have enough of that?