Review by Shana Curl
Office of Academic Advising
Wilmington College, DE
Authors of this manual (and financial aid excerpt) do an excellent job explaining the obstacles faced by foster children who seek higher education and/or training. At its core, the authors would like the reader to understand that these students have not always had someone telling them that they can make it into college, let alone succeed once they are there! Furthermore readers are reminded that these particular students are in need of a stable support system; a support system so strong and consistent that perhaps, with time, the students will internalize a ‘can do’ attitude and succeed beyond their dreams.
Advisors may, however, find that this manual is written more with the high school counselor in mind. Although it provides advisors with insight into at-risk students’ many obstacles and on-going battles, it does not specifically offer many resources useful to a postsecondary advisor.
Strategies are offered throughout; some of which are functional for any age group. For example the Casey Programs staff writers suggest that it is “important to find mentors to provide long-term, knowledgeable guidance for students’ postsecondary education and planning” (p.26). They go on to suggest finding mentors who were, for example, placed into foster care and have gone on to succeed in a postsecondary setting. Being able to relate to the mentor will help solidify the connection. As a means to successful completion of a postsecondary experience, whether it is training or college, the Casey staff asks students to rely heavily on their mentors and perhaps consider even changing mentors if their career choices change.
Common sense approaches such as “a written plan that outlines required coursework and electives and career exploration activities, such as internships” (p.147) are familiar to college level academic advisors. Thus the strategies outlined in this manual would be most beneficial for individuals working with students prior to their postsecondary training or college experiences. This manual comes with a Financial Aid Excerpt in which those individual will find step-by-step instructions allowing them to help students file their FAFSA and inquire about Chafee Programs. These federally funded programs provide funds for qualifying students in the foster care system. Academic advisors may be interested to know that, “College students from foster care may be eligible to receive up to $5,000 annually to apply to costs associated with attending a postsecondary education or training program” (p.28).
Anyone who works closely with students in foster care who are ready to make the decision to attend postsecondary education or training will find the strategies in this manual excellent. This manual will also offer insight to academic advisors at colleges, universities and training programs. Learning about the struggles faced by students from the foster care system will help academic advisors better serve these students.
It's My Life: Postsecondary Education and Training. A resource for child welfare professionals. (2006). Review by Shana Curl. Seattle, WA: Casey Family Programs. 172 pp., free, (spiral)