Opinion: Foster kids need support for college

Alyssa Lashay

Michigan’s foster care system is filled with good children who come from bad circumstances and situations that they have no control over. I believe that this important fact is too often forgotten and overlooked. Foster children are victims.

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I was one of those youth. I spent my teenage years in foster care. I have reunited with my birth family, but I will never forget the day I went into care.

During that adolescent stage — right before maturing into adulthood — children rely on the support and guidance of family on everything from education choices to financial needs. However, children in foster care often lack that support.

That is why donation-driven programs like the Fostering Futures Scholarship are so important. Youth who were in foster care deserve a chance at a higher education, but without the support and funding from the Fostering Futures Scholarship, they often never get it.

There is an alternative: your support.

You can donate to the Fostering Futures Scholarship to help young people who have been in foster care pay for college. The Fostering Futures Scholarship is administered by the Michigan Education Trust within the Michigan Department of Treasury in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Children enter the foster care system due to abuse and/or neglect. At any given time, there are more than 13,000 children in foster care in Michigan. The youth remain in care until they can be returned to their parents in an improved, safe family situation, are adopted or placed in a legal guardianship, or become adults and age out of foster care.

The foster care system – with the assistance of foster parents – becomes the parents. The responsibility of their basic needs and care falls into the hands of the State of Michigan. It clothes them, feeds them, and sends them to school every day.

Thankfully amidst the chaos of foster care, I was able to find consistency in the state-funded Michigan Youth Opportunity Initiative youth boards, where I learned about all the college opportunities available to me. I didn’t have a parent available to me to help me in my preparation for college. I did a lot of it wrong. I went to school unprepared for the financial elements of it and quickly found myself buried in more debt than I could handle.

Fortunately, I learned about the Fostering Futures Scholarship. It helped me complete my undergraduate degree at Wayne State University.

Since 2012, fundraising efforts have totaled more than $1.2 million, with all funds awarded as scholarships in the year they were raised. This year more than 500 youth who experienced foster care are receiving Fostering Futures Scholarships.

I know first-hand the impact your donation will have. And I’m so grateful to those who have made this possible for youth like myself.

To donate to Fostering Futures Scholarship, go to www.michigan.gov/setwithmet and click on the Fostering Futures Scholarship tab. Or you can donate when you file your state taxes by checking the box for Fostering Futures scholarship.

Alyssa Lashay of Detroit is a graduate of Wayne State University and recipient of the Fostering Futures Scholarship.