From Foster Care to College to Career, Western Michigan Provides Pipeline of Support

September 7, 2016

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For students aging out of the foster care system and going to college, the unknowns often outnumber the knowns. Western Michigan University (WMU) has set out to answer these uncertainties by providing a network of support on campus, in Michigan and across the nation.

WMU’s Center for Fostering Success helps these students transition successfully from care to college to career. The center’s mission is to improve college graduation rates and career achievement as it cultivates leadership skills in foster care alumni, educates the community about the particular needs and challenges for this population, and connects groups doing similar work.

Western Michigan President John Mr. Dunn (second from right) and program namesake Dr. John Seita (far right) pose with Seita Scholars at a campus 5K.
Photo courtesy of Western Michigan University

Although the center was formally established in 2012, WMU’s focus on youth aging out of foster care dates back to 2008 and the launch of its Seita Scholars Program. The program was a response to the fact that, although young people in foster care have college aspirations at rates identical to the general student population, without a traditional support system fewer than 5 percent are able to navigate the higher education process and earn degrees.

WMU initially expected a handful of former foster youth to enroll through the program in fall 2008. Instead, the first class was 51 strong. Today, the program—which offers undergraduate scholarships, a campus coach for financial and academic guidance, and housing during school breaks—has 140 students and will see its 100th graduate later this year.

The network established to support the Seita program led to the establishment of the Center for Fostering Success in 2012. In addition to the Seita program, the center now includes initiatives aimed at expanding capacity and service in Michigan and around the nation.

One of these additional initiatives is Fostering Success Michigan, a state- and nation-wide network for those who work with students from foster care. It creates an education to career “pipeline” for foster care alumni and employs an intricate web of individuals: students with experience in foster care; higher education professionals; child welfare professionals; community organizations; supportive adults; philanthropic support; and the business community.

Bringing the Center full circle is the Fostering Success Coach Training and Certification Program, designed for professionals working with students from foster care or who have lived through adverse childhood experiences. The program integrates the Fostering Success Coaching Model developed by WMU, which provides certificate holders with a professional framework and student engagement strategies to bolster student achievement.

At a Glance:

ACE Member Institution: Western Michigan University

Program: Center for Fostering Success

Center Success Stories:

Become a member: As a member of ACE, you join over 1,600 organizations that collectively promote, protect and advocate for students, faculty and administrators in higher education. ACE is the most visible and influential higher education association in the nation, and we are at the center of federal policy debates concerning legislation that affects campuses across the country. See more on the ACE website.  

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