I recently Googled “Foster Care,” and came across an article that had an interview with Jasmine Uqduh. Jasmine is a girl who was in foster care in Michigan from early childhood until she was 18 years old . When she turned 18, she packed a small bag and two small garbage bags with her entire life (a few clothes and a few stuffed animals), and said farewell to the foster family she had been living with. I stopped after I read the first paragraph. I inhaled sharply, as I imagined taking on what Jasmine did. She had spent half of her years in the foster care system, so maybe leaving the last one was not as difficult for her as it would be for someone who has only known one home. She had been in 15 different schools and 24 different foster homes since she started in the foster care system. Her dad died when she was four and her mother had a difficult time raising her alone. I stayed with the same people from kindergarten through high school. I struggled when I left the familiar group of 18 years and ventured to college out of state. That was only one move! I can’t imagine leaving schools and friends as many times as Jasmine did. I wouldn’t have made friends and would have kept to myself because I would have constantly been thinking about moving to another school. I am in awe of Jasmine and how she pushed forward.
Jasmine did disclose that she had one “constant” in her life; a Mickey Mouse shaped pillow she had taken with her to every foster home since she became a teenager. I can’t even visualize having a piece of fabric as the only thing I could count on to always be with me. I think of my husband, my children, and my parents. Those are my constants. People should be constants in someone’s life, not inanimate objects. My heart was breaking for Jasmine, and for other foster children like her who had gone through the system.
Jasmine was 18 now; she had “aged out of the system.” About half of foster children in the United States who age out of foster care drop out of high school. Jasmine explained in the interview that when she hit the streets, and closed the door to foster care behind her, she realized it was a scary place to be in. She discussed how at 18, many kids think they are adults, and can manage by themselves in the world, without the supports they used to have. She brought to light that at 18 years old, you are not ready for evictions or for notices that electricity will be shut off if you don’t pay the bill.
Jasmine had been accepted to Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan in 2008, and attended for two semesters freshman year. She then dropped out because she had to balance college, a part time job, and try to maintain an apartment, meals, and everyday life. She took on a second job instead of continuing college, but her dreams of graduating from college never ceased.
Jasmine decided a few years ago to start attending a local community college in Michigan. Michigan has joined a number of states as advocates for offering aged out foster children tools for attending college. These states also offer close to full scholarships to college. There have been growing numbers of foster children who have had this amazing assistance and ended up with college degrees. Jasmine is on track to increase the statistics of foster youth college graduates by one. She stated that she is doing well, and is planning to graduate with her Associate degree this winter. She then plans to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work at the University of Michigan.
Reading Jasmine’s success story makes me happy. It makes me realize that communities are noticing the emotional, social, and academic struggles of foster care children, and are taking strides to minimize those struggles, and turn them into successes. Below is a link to a chart from the article showing programs available to foster children who plan on going to college. It is categorized by state:
Interview source: www.npr.org, 2015