“It is important to have a dream. If you work hard, your dream will come true.”
Many people may think this is the kind of words that employees/volunteers of a nonprofit organization that supports youths in/aging out foster care may say. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth – in our sector, these words are close to taboo, especially towards junior high and high school youths. One reason for this is because such words may interfere with the support plan foster home employees who act as guardians for the youths imay have put in place for them. In order to support youths who must stand on their own and provide for themselves after leaving foster care, foster home carers often have to advise youths to give up pursuing their dreams.
This can be said specifically in regards to access to higher education. For many of the youths, going on to college means they need to earn enough money to support their daily expenses as well as pay their tuition while living on one’s own for the first time, for four years, in an world where they have no parents to rely on. If they quit college, it becomes more difficult for them to find a job as a full-time employee compared to if they had looked for a job straight out of high school. The scholarship money they may have applied for can turn into a debt. The rate of youths dropping out of college is high amongst those who have aged out of foster care. Therefore not all foster home carers can recommend or encourage higher education which poses high risks for many.
The situation is changing bit by bit as the national government has started providing scholarships for youths aging out of foster care. However, not all problems can be solved even if the economic burden on the youths becomes lighter. The youths may become mentally unstable or depressed seeing the difference between their situation and the situation of their peers in college. Many of these youths do not have someone they can rely on unconditionally when they are in trouble. It is no easy feat to reach graduation on their own.
One must understand that sometimes foster home carers must turn their hearts to stone to help youths under their care “give up” their dreams, more so perhaps if they are seriously thinking about the gap between the youths’ ideals and the reality that awaits them. The youths have a right to pursue their dreams. However, they also must see how difficult and unforgiving the world can be. We need to create an environment where a youth can start over again and again if we truly want to encourage youths aging out of care to take a leap for their dreams.
“I’m confident your dream will come true.”
Whether we can gently push a youths’ back with these words depends on whether you and I are ready to provide an environment where the youths can indeed nurture and chase their dreams.