Building a Better Life Through Education

San Diego County officials and local community leaders held a “Building Better Futures” event today in San Marcos to link at-risk and foster youth with community-based services, in the hope of keeping kids out of gangs and getting them into colleges.

“We know our greatest tool in the fight against homelessness and gang violence is education,” said San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Horn. “When community leaders get together and work on solutions, we accomplish great things.”

In any given year in California, foster children comprise less than 3 percent of the state’s population.  However, they comprise 40 percent of the homeless population and about 50 percent of our jail and prison populations. Approximately 300 foster youth leave the foster care system in San Diego County each year. About half of these youth under the age of 21 are unemployed.

“It is vitally important for public and private agencies to work together to ensure the safety and well-being of teens who are vulnerable to dropping out of high school and getting involved with gangs,” said Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. “Today’s forum provided a great opportunity to bring forth a lot of good ideas to address these issues.”

According to a 2007 study conducted by the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego, only 1 percent to 3 percent of California’s former foster youth earned a bachelor’s degree. “Unfortunately the probability of a youth aging out of the foster care system earning a college degree is statistically worse than someone earning their degree in prison,” said CSUSM’s ACE Scholar Services Director Jim Mickelson.

“Providing at-risk and foster youth with the tools that will empower them to attend college and help them to lead healthy lives supports the County’s Live Well, San Diego! 10-year health care initiative,” said HHSA Director Nick Macchione.  “Their success does more than affect the individual youth. It ultimately has significant impacts on the entire community.”