Earlier this year, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada partnered with the Child Welfare Institute, a branch of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and Canada’s leading authority on research and evaluation related to child welfare, to study the nationwide impact of the Foundation’s educational funding. The Foundation’s support includes scholarships, bursaries, educational awards, tutoring, and support for expenses like rent and textbooks that are also essential to learning. The results were loud and clear: donors are transforming the lives of young people throughout child welfare.
“Without the Foundation’s financial help I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my Master’s degree. [It was not] only the financial aspect [that helped], but the feeling that someone is investing in me and cares.” – Funding recipient
Surveying a national sample of youth who, over the past decade, have received Foundation funding, the young people were asked to describe how this money has helped them. Overall: 98 percent of surveyed youth reported that Foundation funding has assisted them with academic achievements, 85 percent reported that this financial support was critical to their ability to attend school, 80 percent reported better social connections, and 92 percent of students have graduated, or on track to graduate from, post-secondary studies.
“It’s a well-established fact that education is key, because it’s the key to improving earning potential. Increasing their earning potential will lift these youth and even their children out of poverty,” says Deborah Goodman, director of the Child Welfare Institute. Beyond financial stability, education also allows youth to overcome past traumas, like abuse and neglect, by improving their physical and mental wellbeing. “There are a lot of physical and mental health issues that coincide with staying in poverty,” says Goodman. “Scholarships and bursaries help take youth out of the risk category and move them into a normative population of the general community of young people.”
Self-esteem can also play a determining factor in their success. “A lot of youth [mention the significant impact of] having a funder believe in them,” says Goodman. “It makes them feel good about themselves knowing they have a community to rally behind them and to celebrate their success.”
While we know there is a need for support for children and youth at all stages of their academic journey, the Child Welfare Institute’s research identifies high school as the most vulnerable stage for children and youth in care. “One of the largest barriers is simply being in foster care and the stigma that goes along with being a foster child,” says Goodman. “Unless we’re in foster care ourselves, we often just don’t understand the burden.” Often at this age, young people become discouraged in school and end-up dropping out without earning their high school diplomas. This can completely hinder their future employability and financial stability.
Fortunately, with continued donor-funded programs like CAFC’s Scotiabank Stay in School Program and HSBC National Transformation Project, we can encourage kids to stay in school and reach their full potential.