Involving Foster Children in Extracurricular Activities
This weekend we had a chance to attend a wrestling tournament and watch one of our GHH boys in action. He won a first place medal and was very proud to share the experience with us. We encourage all of our children to participate in extracurricular activities or to volunteer in the community. We have another boy who aspires to become a famous make-up artist. He will start taking classes this summer at Miami Dade College. Our third boy enjoys boxing and dreams of becoming a music producer.
If any children can benefit from extracurricular activities, it is foster youth. On average, foster youth tend to have worse academic performance and more behavioral problems than other students. Thirty percent of foster youth perform below grade level. They are more likely to need special education services. They also get held back at a much higher rate. A lot of the issues for foster are centered around frequent school changes. Each time a foster youth changes homes – which can be frequent – they also change schools. This means they must adapt to a new peer group, new classes, and new teachers. These changes increase their chances of having behavioral problems and leads to a higher risk of drop out.
Extracurricular activities help with academic achievement, with solving behavioral problems and with identity development. However, there are systemic barriers for foster youth involvement in after school activities. Facilitating foster youth participation requires the coordination of state and local policymakers (allowing fee waivers), caregivers, school districts (encouragement and support is needed) and the foster youth themselves. Typical school experiences involve more than just attending school and getting credits. It is also about being a part of school community.
An increased focus on removing the barriers to foster youth participation in extracurricular activities, as well as actively encouraging involvement, could yield many benefits for this often overlooked population of youth. At Genesis Hopeful Haven, we make extracurricular activities a priority. We are looking for any niché our youth want to be involved in – basketball, soccer, art, tumbling, etc. Anything that interests our boys, we make it our duty to sponsor it. It is ultimately rewarding to us to see our boys enjoying their interests to the fullest. Be a part of the journey that helps break barriers for foster children who are often easily forgotten.