News Articles

Youth in Foster Care: The Importance of Mentorship

By Catherine Kirch

For the first time in seven years, the number of children in the United States foster care system has decreased. According to new data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, there were 437,000 children in foster care at the end of the 2018 fiscal year, down from 441,000 the previous year.

Prior to 2018, the number of foster care children had been on the rise. This increase has largely been attributed to parental substance abuse. In contrast, 2018 saw the lowest number of children enter the foster care system since 2014, and more children were adopted in 2018 than in any one of the past ten years.

Although the number of children entering the system has decreased, there are still 125,000 children waiting for adoption, a number that has been steadily increasing since 2012. While the number of children in the system may have dropped, the challenges facing these children still remain. Many foster children experience depression, low self-esteem, and PTSD. Only 21% of those who age out of foster care have a high school diploma.

The Power of Mentorship

New York City has announced an initiative to pair young people in foster care with mentors, tutors, and coaches. The goal of the initiative is to help these children, aged 11 to 21, enter college, get jobs, and transition into adult life. It is important to provide children in need, both within and outside of the foster care system, with long-term attention so they can continue to thrive.

Bigs & Littles NYC, an agency of Catholic Charities, has been transforming the lives of children through their mentorship programs since 1902. The organization matches youth ages 7 to 17 with Big Sisters and Brothers who serve as friends, advisors, and role models.

The children in this mentoring program come from low-income households. Most of these children are from first-generation immigrant families, households headed by single mothers, and families living below the poverty line. Bigs and Littles meet twice a month to participate in activities all over New York City, including ballgames, shows, and service projects.

Bigs & Littles NYC is dedicated to making a positive impact through these long-term, community-based mentorships. Youth in these mentorships avoid arrest, graduate high school, avoid early parenting, and enroll in college or other professional training programs. Alumni of the program are more likely to graduate from a four-year college and are more likely to be involved in their community.

This organization proves how valuable mentorship can be for children of all backgrounds. We can hope that the initiative mentoring foster children in New York City will follow their example and have a positive impact on the youth they serve as well.

To find out more about Bigs & Littles NYC, please visit their website.