Fostering Success

New program supports students with foster care backgrounds

April 2, 2014

A new grant-funded program that helps students who have foster care in their backgrounds has been started at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Pam Holsinger-Fuchs, executive director of Enrollment Services and foster student liaison at the university, had the idea for the program, and the Admissions office recently received a $30,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to make it possible.

The grant UW-Stout received came from a federal grant awarded to WDCF. The department in turn developed the grant Opening Doors to College for Former Foster Youth; UW-Stout applied for and received that grant.

Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs, left, and Cheyenne Gray.The program, named Fostering Success, is one of two in the UW System. UW-Oshkosh also received the grant.

UW-Stout's grant is for 18 months.

"Fostering Success was built based on the criteria set by the WDCF, but we added our own ideas," Holsinger-Fuchs said.

Included in the UW-Stout program are:

  • Collaboration with local high schools and UW-Stout's ASPIRE program, which addresses needs of low-income and first-generation college students.
  • Summer day camps for middle school students and overnight camps for high school students. Camps will provide students exposure to campus and to the processes involved in applying to and attending college. Workshops will be held on financial aid, academic advisement and other college preparatory information.
  • The hiring of one student in the Fostering Success program as a day camp mentor.
  • The Linen Closet, a program through which students can receive used but still usable towels and bedding that were left in residence halls.
  • A graduate assistant, Cheyenne Gray, of Gilmanton, who works in Admissions.
  • Families recruited from the community to take part in Foster Weekends. "Many students who lived in foster care don't have families to go home to," Gray said.
  • Assistance in finding housing for students.

Fostering Success is designed to provide the specific support that may not be available to a student with a foster care background. According to a 2011 article by Western Michigan University, about 20 percent of college-qualified foster youth attend college and 5 to 10 percent from that group earn a degree.

Through the program, UW-Stout hopes to increase that percentage.

At least 16 students on campus have been identified as having been in foster care. Six have shown an interest in being involved in the program, Holsinger-Fuchs said.

According to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, young people who have experienced homelessness or who have been in foster care at some time in their childhood, face barriers to higher education.

"Inadequate college readiness, the complexity of the financial aid process and lack of housing and support services once enrolled in college make obtaining a college degree an often insurmountable challenge. Yet a college education offers these youth the best opportunity to escape poverty and realize their dreams," NAEHCY said.

For more information contact Holsinger-Fuchs, 715-232-2639, or Gray.