CSU program helps former foster children move forward

6:35 PM, Dec 15, 2010   |    comments
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When she got to Metro State in Denver, Janes worked 60 hours a week to pay for her apartment - waitressing, making coffee, helping fellow students in an on-campus office. When her peers went home to their families every day, Janes went to work and then went home alone.

"I just got used to it. You don't really have a choice," she said. "A lot of people bring up their family, like 'I'm going shopping with my family. And I'm like, 'I don't have a mom.'"

Still, Janes, now 25, persevered at her jobs and at college. She finished her bachelor's degree in communications and then enrolled in Colorado State University to get her master's degree.

"You see everyone around you getting care packages, getting a call from mom and dad," Janes said. "I remember telling my [adopted] mom these people couldn't even spell struggle."

"I didn't go to the dentist for six years," she said.

Janes is a former foster child who wants to help students like her succeed at Colorado State University. Now, the university is adding its weight to Janes' efforts, which include a support group for former foster kids who have "emancipated" from the foster-care system.

CSU has created the Fostering Success program to assist the approximately 80 former foster-system students on the Fort Collins campus who don't have families to support them. Without financial, emotional and physical family support, they face significant obstacles as they attempt to live and learn on campus.

Janes says former foster kids attending CSU struggle to pay their bills, afford health care and even find somewhere to sleep when the residence halls close for the summer and winter breaks. Even the cost of books can seem insurmountable, she said. And they often don't have anyone to talk to, she said.
"Unlike other kids, [former foster kids] don't have parents they can call and say 'I'm behind on my rent, I'm having trouble paying my bills, can you send me $100,'" Janes said. "Summer break - where do you go?"

As part of the Fostering Success program, Janes and other CSU students and staff earlier this month made and delivered care packages to former foster kids attending CSU. According to university officials, only 2 percent of former foster students even earn a four-year college degree. The reality is that between 40 percent and 50 percent of emancipated foster youth are homeless within 18 months of emancipation, the university said.

"For a [former foster kid] to be a four-year university graduate speaks volumes about what they have already accomplished," said Paul Thayer, CSU's associate vice president for Student Affairs and special adviser to the provost for retention.

Janes says the struggles she's faced have made her a stronger, more resilient person. But she hopes to help other former foster kids to learn that it's OK to ask for help.

"I'm really excited to help them with that, because I didn't have that," she said.

For more information, visit www.campaign.colostate.edu/FosteringSuccess.

This story written by Trevor Hughes, Fort Collins Coloradoan.

(Copyright © 2010 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)

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