Close the Educational Opportunity Gap for College-Bound Foster Youth

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It is back-to-school time and many young people are saying goodbye to their families and heading off to college. Others, however, are making the journey alone: thousands of foster care teens who have “aged out” of the system. For many of these youth, education has been the one promising constant in their lives – and now, at the threshold of adulthood, it is a struggle to find financial and emotional support to sustain their educational and career goals.

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At OFA, we encourage college-bound foster youth to succeed by connecting them with the love and resources of a caring community.

"Care packages, internships, scholarships and other support give these young people hope," said Eileen McCaffrey, executive director of the Orphan Foundation of America (OFA), a Washington D.C.-based, national not-for-profit organization focused on education, mentoring and workforce development for those who have aged out. "At OFA, we encourage college-bound foster youth to succeed by connecting them with the love and resources of a caring community."

At any given point, there are more than 500,000 U.S. children in foster care. Every year, more than 25,000 of them age out of the system and face a challenging world without financial or family support. Only half of them finish high school and only about 13 percent start college. Of those who do go to college, half drop out in the first year. For those involved in OFA's programs, however, these numbers improve dramatically. More than 65 percent graduate from college within five years, a rate comparable to their peers.

There are several ways people can help support OFA's programs and close the educational gap:

Join the Care Package program: Three times a year, OFA sends care packages to thousands of foster students at colleges, universities and training programs nationwide. Consider donating just $20 to help OFA fill a care package with school supplies, gift cards and other items college students appreciate. Encourage employers to get involved, too, through funding contributions or in-kind donations. Sponsor a Scholarship: Every penny from monetary donations designated for an OFA Sponsored Scholarship goes directly to the students. Each year, 2,000 hopeful young people apply for these programs. Offer college internships: Your workplace could provide an environment for a foster teen to gain real world experience. Internships give them opportunities they might never have on their own. "All of us can do something to help foster youth achieve their educational dreams," added McCaffrey.

Visit http://www.orphan.org for more information.

MULTIMEDIA GALLERY http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=5749956

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