The university strives to meet the needs of students with unstable housing backgrounds

Key points

  • Experiencing foster care or homelessness at a young age can make it more difficult to afford and complete higher education.
  • A recent study found that students have to work long hours, live in the car during breaks, and have other problems.
  • Experts expressed the need for school staff who specialize in helping students solve these problems.

The degree of family and financial stability that a person experiences may have a ripple effect through to adulthood. An area of ​​influence in particular is the ability to successfully pursue further studies.A recent study comes from Journal of Youth Studies (Can) Found that experiencing foster care or homelessness in youth can create huge obstacles to the burden and completion of higher education.

During the course of a school year, the researchers conducted 3 in-depth interviews with 27 four-year university students between the ages of 18 and 29 who had experienced foster care, homelessness, or both.

Among those who participated, 88.9% had experienced homelessness at least once since the age of 14, and 40.7% had been fostered.

The majority are women (66%) and black (77.8%). The reported problems include long hours of work and lack of housing during school holidays.

“Foster care and homelessness are the result of increased vulnerability and marginalization that make children less likely to receive higher education. They have encountered major obstacles caused by a series of social determinants and structural problems,” UNICEF education expert Said Lisa Chung Bender.

“The important guidance, advice and encouragement most often provided by adult family members are often absent.”

Barriers to higher education

People who have experienced homelessness or foster care face many steep barriers to higher education. In 2019, approximately 673,000 young people were fostered in the United States.

As of 2014, 20% of foster youth graduating from high school had gone to college, but less than 10% had completed a bachelor’s degree. In addition, an estimated 4.2 million youths and young people are homeless each year, of which about 700,000 are unaccompanied minors.

Below are some of the obstacles they may face in higher education.

Intermittent pre-school and preparation

Foster caregivers often face education interruptions even before reaching the age of higher education. “Family placement of foster youths may change frequently and suddenly, which means that foster youths usually attend four different schools between grades 9 and 12, taking into account family reunion efforts, mental health counseling, and other requirements required by the county. Services,” said Mary-Christine Busque, LCSW, Pivotal’s vice president of programming, an organization that provides guidance, enrichment programs, scholarships and other important resources for foster students.

Lisa Chung Bender

Foster care and homelessness are the result of increased vulnerability and marginalization, making children less likely to receive higher education.

— Lisa Bender

People in this situation may also know little about the process of applying for schools and financial aid or scholarships. Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, an organization dedicated to solving the problem of homelessness through education, said that even after applying for assistance, unaccompanied homeless youth are often caused by the lack of management staff. Think that they are independent and cannot get financial assistance. However, the National Homeless Education Center made it clear that they “do not need to report parents’ financial and other information on the FAFSA.”

Emotional distress

Experiencing homelessness or foster care can have a huge impact on a person’s mental health. A 2019 review report stated that as many as 80% of foster caregivers have serious mental health problems. For adults who have previously received foster care, the incidence of related diseases is also much higher. For example, 21.5% of people in foster care have PTSD, compared with 4.5% in the general population, and 11.4% with panic disorder, compared to 3.6% in the general population.

As for homeless youth, 69% also reported mental health problems.

Sixteen Can Study participants reported that there are no formal caregivers in high school due to problems such as abuse, abandonment, and death of parents.

“It is important to remember that foster care is the result of abuse and/or neglect, so we assume that despite the incredible adaptability of young people, many people will still face ongoing social and emotional distress or health problems, which may be An additional difficulty is the success of higher education,” Bender said.

Need work

In the first research interview, 14 people were employed, working an average of 22 hours a week-although some people reported working up to 40 hours a week. “I think people don’t get the understanding they deserve, how difficult it is for students to go to school full-time and work full-time,” said one participant. “I leave work at one o’clock in the morning and turn to class at eight o’clock. When I leave work, I have to do my homework. Yes, we are really tired from coming to school. I think they should understand why.”

Barbara Duffield

Institutions should develop plans to address housing, food, health, and mental health needs during the school year and breaks.

— Barbara Duffield

In addition to understandable fatigue, working to pay for college can increase stress and limit opportunities to perform well or enjoy yourself, and prevent people from spending working hours studying for a degree. “These young people face a greater cost of learning opportunities because it reduces opportunities for work,” Bender said. “Work can also limit opportunities to collaborate with peers, obtain academic support services, or participate in rich activities.”

Lack of housing when schools are closed

When the dormitory is closed, not everyone has a place to go. “There are also practical restrictions that create major obstacles to higher education, such as the lack of housing during the summer and academic holidays-for those students who live on campus-[and an] Can’t store belongings,” Bender said.

Since receiving higher education, 11 participants have experienced homelessness at least once, and 4 have lived in their cars for weeks to months.

A 2019 report of 167,000 students in 227 two- and four-year schools showed that in the past year, 46% of participants had unsafe housing and 17% were homeless.

In some cases, these homeless situations are due to school. A student stayed in his car for two months because he did not receive the summer subsidy. After he came out, he was alienated from his family. “I really don’t want anyone to see me. I have to do things like pee in a Gatorade bottle,” he said.

Policy and social changes

Bender emphasized the need to make changes before starting the application. She said: “Although young people are still in high school, they can do more to provide advice, guidance and guidance to these students.”

Once entering the university, “targeted programs should be provided to support the success of students, especially those that receive public funds. Young people should also be able to get more funds to pay for tuition, board and lodging, life and academics. Expenses,” she added.

Duffield emphasized the importance of each institution having a dedicated position to support homeless or foster students. “Institutions should develop plans to address housing, food, health, and mental health needs during the school year and breaks; review and modify any policies that may disproportionately punish the homeless and nurture young people-including satisfactory Academic progress policy-and provide supplementary academic assistance,” she said.

On a larger scale, federal policy changes and increased funding can help students more easily afford and complete higher education. For example, current legislation includes the 2021 Higher Education Success for Foster Care and Homeless Youth Act.

What this means to you

Young and university level changes are necessary, not only to make university an option, but also to reduce homelessness and foster care. “There is a view that’housing ends homelessness’. But if young people are unable to maintain and maintain their homes and do not receive the support they need to achieve financial stability, this is an empty slogan,” Duffield said.

“In today’s economy, this means some form of education outside of high school. At the same time, the unique needs of homeless and foster youth may be overlooked in the’basic needs movement’ of higher education. These young people People need all departments to support their dreams and ambitions, including their higher education dreams.”