Thank you to KCRG for special coverage of our Achieving Maximum Potential (AMP) program! You can view the entire story online here.
CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s graduation season, which usually means seniors are counting down the minutes until high school ends, parents are planning parties and extended family are making travel plans.
Except that’s not the scenario for about 25,000 American students who are on the cusp of adulthood, with no adult to guide them into college.
They include foster children who become adults without ever being adopted. Or 18 year olds who leave home willingly and never look back.
They’re independent to the extreme, because there aren’t any other options like moving back home with mom or dad, taking a loan from a relative or joining the family business.
Laticia Aossey has been in the foster care system since she was a baby. Although she’s lived in Cedar Rapids her entire life, she’s never been in one home for more than a couple of years. She attended four different high schools before graduating early from Prairie.
“My mom was in a lot of abusive relationships and my dad was obviously in and out of prison so they weren’t really there for me in my childhood,” said Aossey.
She bounced around from foster home to foster home, and at 14 her parents legally lost parental rights. When she turned 18, having never been adopted, she was released from the foster care program and totally on her own.
That’s when she found a program called Achieving Maximum Potential, or AMP.
AMP works with young adults who are aging out of foster care to help them complete college financial aid forms, apply for scholarships, and secure housing.
Aossey just finished her first year at the University of Northern Iowa with a 3.0 GPA.
“I wouldn’t be in college right now,” Aossey said, “I wouldn’t be at the point that I am if it wasn’t for AMP and my workers that I had that got me here.”
Cordelia Logan is at the University of Iowa, but it took her seven years to get there after high school.
“I first started trying to go to college when I was 18 and filled out the FAFSA. [It] got rejected eight times because I didn’t have parental information on it,” said Logan.
Logan grew up in Florida and says her mom wasn’t in her life much, and she and her dad fought a lot. At 18, she packed up a couple of suitcases and took a bus destined for Iowa, cutting off ties with her parents completely.
“I’m a lot better off now that I don’t have those toxic relationships in my life, although it has been more difficult to find my place in the world, said Logan.
Both Logan and Aossey found ways to pay for college, but there was more help up front for Aossey. Financial aid flows for children who were wards of the state, but it dries up for kids who legally have parents but don’t communicate with or get help from them.
Logan has four jobs while attending the University of Iowa. She works full-time at Pearson, which covers half her tuition.
The statistics for children who live in foster care until they are adults are sobering: only half graduate from high school, and only three percent earn college degrees, according to a study by Western Michigan University.
There aren’t statistics on children like Cordelia Logan, who aren’t part of the foster care system, but are still starting adulthood without the benefit of parental support.
Both Logan and Aossey are trying to support kids in similar situations.
Laticia Aossey is starting an AMP chapter at UNI to help other former foster students in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo area.
Cordelia Logan started a blog called Orphan Survival Guide.
She fills the website with tips and guidance she’s acquired through living fully independently since 18.
The Junior League of Cedar Rapids provides meals during AMP meetings and pair up with a teen foster child through a buddy program. The non-profit group of women hosts opportunities for people to support foster children who are about to reach adulthood.
Read more at http://www.kcrg.com/subject/news/education/life-after-high-school-different-for-those-without-family-ties-20150520#SCyWSJ8UBrfeqpTt.99