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03/29/2022 Hopewell To Mark Foster Care Awareness Month With Forum On Improving Academic Outcomes For Youth Living In Care

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HopeWell announces “Spotlight on Hope Presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance,” its inaugural spring event honoring Foster Care Awareness Month in May. The event will convene child welfare experts from across the U.S., including individuals with lived experience in the child welfare system, for an in-person discussion about how to make post-secondary school success a reality for youth living in foster care. Spotlight on Hope Presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance takes place Tuesday, May 24 from 8-11am. at the AFH EpiCenter in Boston.

“Post-secondary education, be it vocational training or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, is typically a basic requirement for advancement and employment. Yet less than five percent of young people that have experienced foster care attain a bachelor’s degree due to barriers to education they often face, such as prohibitive tuition costs and a lack of stable housing,” said Shaheer Mustafa, HopeWell’s President and CEO. “We’re excited to hear and learn from experts, including those with lived experience in the child welfare system, who are implementing innovations in practice, research, and advocacy to improve educational outcomes of young adults who’ve experienced foster care.”

Featured panelists will be Maddy Day, a child welfare and education expert who consults with organizations focused on improving the lives of young adults who have experienced foster care and homelessness and first generation, low-income college students and students of color; Angela Hoffman-Cooper, Senior Director of Marketing Communication at Northland College and an adjunct instructor in psychology, sociology, and human-centered design thinking and a founding member of The Foster Scholars; Nathan Ross, a therapist and national child welfare consultant who uses his personal, educational, and professional experiences to improve the foster care system throughout North America; and Lyndsey Collins Wilson, CEO of First Star, Inc., which partners with universities and child welfare agencies to invest long-term in high school-aged youth living in foster care to support academic achievement and self-sufficiency. Moderating the panel is Julie Segovia, HopeWell Vice President, Research, Policy, and Learning, who has experienced firsthand many of the foster care-specific barriers to post-secondary education and cares deeply about removing those barriers through innovative and equitable policy and practice changes.

The academic opportunity gap for children experiencing foster care is one of the largest gaps for any group of students in Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), third-graders living in foster care in the Commonwealth are 2.4 times more likely to not meet English Language Arts MCAS expectations compared to all third-graders in Massachusetts. Just 58 percent of students living in foster care graduate from high school in four years compared with 89 percent of all students, according to DESE. Nationally, less than five percent of youth who experience foster care will earn a post-secondary degree, compared with 49 percent of the U.S. population, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each May HopeWell will convene child welfare leaders and innovators for robust discussion about how we can do better for children and adolescents growing up in foster care. Nationally recognized experts will share their successes, insights, and vision for moving the field forward from basic child protection to providing every child and family with what they need to heal, prosper, and thrive.

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