In a province where the high school graduation rate is better than 80 per cent, foster children are stark exceptions. In the last five years, an average of just 32 per cent of kids in care have graduated from Grade 12 by their 19th birthday, the age at which government support abruptly ends.
There are many reasons why foster children fall behind in school: As a group, kids in permanent care are almost seven times more likely to be in special education programs than all other students. More than 40 per cent have physical disabilities or a chronic health impairment, while nearly 30 per cent have intensive behaviour problems or a serious mental illness.
But more than any other reason, foster kids are behind because they have often been bounced from home to home, causing them to fall behind and making it almost impossible to graduate with their peers. Many are still in high school when their government care ends, and although a public school education is usually free, at age 19 these youth suddenly become responsible for their own costs of living — making graduation less of a priority.
Those who do graduate and want to carry on to post-secondary institutions face even greater challenges because they have no families to help them financially, emotionally, or with things like applications or student loans.