A statewide summit on foster care and a special movie screening are being held this week in Kalamazoo.
The Fostering Success Michigan Summit is Friday at the Fetzer Center at Western Michigan University. A free screening of the film Short Term 12 is Thursday at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Kalamazoo.
The Director of Outreaching and Training for Western Michigan University's Center for Fostering Success, Maddy Day says Friday's summit will focus on increasing access to higher education for foster students. Day says the movie Short Term 12 should help stimulate discussion about residential care. After the movie, there will be a discussion led by three foster care alumni.
Day says there is a focus on making sure that foster children are independent in and after college. But she says the students should be able to find sources of assistance. Day says they are also trying to create a network of support for young adults from foster care.
Among the challenges that foster students face in college is housing. Day says students may not have a place to stay over the summer or Christmas break. Western Michigan University keeps dorms open over break to help students who may not have a place to go.
Day says she is often asked about WMU's Seita Scholars Program. She says the program touches on a variety of issues that can affect any student. But Day says things like financial planning and basic life skills are especially important to foster students. She says the program at Western is turning out students who want to give back, and be part of the Kalamazoo community.
When asked who makes a good mentor, Day says patience and an openness to learning about someone else's experience. She says it doesn't take special skill. But it does require someone who can show how they hold down a job and be a parent.
Day says she would like to see a greater expectation of success for students from foster care. She says just getting through high school isn't enough. Day says foster care students should be expected to go on to college or technical training like other students.