The Bridge is devoted to serving West Virginia's youth in foster care. The Bridge serves these children with the vision of creating meaningful and effective support so that they can be successful in school and beyond.
The Bridge is funded by the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, the Brookdale Foundation and the Bernard McDonough Foundation.
The negative data surrounding foster children’s education and transition to adulthood is staggering. Consider the following national data:
- There are approximately 390,000 children in foster care in the United States; West Virginia has over 4,000 children in foster care.
- More than 1 in 5 foster children who “age out” will become homeless after age 18.
- Only 58% will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87% of all 19 year olds).
- By the age of 24, only half are employed.
- Fewer than 10% will attempt a college degree; fewer than 3% will earn a college degree by age 25.
- 1 in 4 will be involved in the justice system within 2 years of leaving the foster care system.
Children in foster care represent some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Year after year, these individuals “age out” at the age of 18 years old and ultimately characterize the gross failings of our society to meet their needs. Furthermore, children in foster care that experience problems in school potentially have a harder time finding permanent adoptive homes. Besides the personal impact that children in foster care experience—the societal cost of a child that has had a system fail them is astronomical. These children need—and deserve—help.
Students in grades K-12 currently in out-of-home care or were in care within the past year are eligible for some or all of The Bridge’s services:
- Educational Advocacy
- Academic Success Mentoring
- Student Enrichment Opportunities
- Post-Secondary Education Planning
- College Funding for Children in the Foster Care System
Through intentional and thorough collaboration with schools, caretakers, social workers and community organizations, we are able to help meet the students’ needs and removing barriers to school success. The Bridge uses the value of research, years of professional practice, consistent follow-up and continual evaluation to best serve the student.
The Bridge work with social workers, foster families and foster youth to resolve difficult issues and remove barriers to foster kids’ school success.
The Bridge will:
- ensure that the students’ rights are upheld in the school setting;
- help students access education-related support services, including special education;
- prevent school changes when students’ placements change, and pave the way for seamless transitions when school changes are unavoidable;
- minimize the effects of disciplinary actions that keep students out of school;
- assist high school youth in making up credits when necessary and possible as well as identifying alternative high school programs to stay engaged and on track to graduate;
- facilitate participation in extracurricular activities.
A is for regular class attendance
B is for appropriate behavior
C is for adequate course completion
The “Plus” refers to additional critical attitude and engagement measures that research and practice have uncovered as critical elements we must also support for foster children’s overall success:
- meaningful participation in an extra-curricular activity;
- a mindset of persistence and perseverance;
- a student-centered plan for the future;
Our work is guided by the concept of ABC Plus, which summarizes seven factors that lead to student success.
Students need opportunities to flourish outside of the classroom. These experiences bring classroom concepts to life and establish a new future horizon on which students in foster care may focus. The Bridge will provide student enrichment workshops, field trips, internship and mentoring opportunities and educational experiences. We will accomplish this using community partners, our own educational professionals, and our network of stakeholders committed to positive youth development. The Bridge connects enrichment opportunities to the student on an individual level, particularly during the summer months to continue learning and encouraging personal growth.
College Funding Support
It is a fact that, for students in the foster care system, one of the main barriers to finishing their post-secondary aspirations is the lack of funds to support them throughout their education. The Bridge will serve as the administrator of the scholarship funds that Mission West Virginia’s Frameworks program raises for children in foster care. The funds raised for these students are able to go towards any education-related expenses that may occur throughout their post-secondary education career. In addition, the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office has partnered with Mission West Virginia and generously donated funds through their Smart 529 Plan fundraisers to give children adopted through the foster care system an opportunity to have their own Smart 529 in order to fund their college education. The Bridge will serve as the administrator of these funds through a competitive application process.
If you would like for The Bridge to provide services to a student in grades K-12 that is currently in out-of-home care or was in care within the past year, please contact Kelly Thompson at 304-562-0723 or click here to email: Email Kelly Thompson
Post-Secondary Education Planning
The Bridge’s goal is to build the confidence, skills and supports youth impacted by foster care need to take charge of their lives and future. We work with youth to create a personal plan to graduate high school and pursue their dreams. The Bridge uses research-based methods to give students the necessary tools to first understand and use their individual strengths and interests. Based on this, we help youth create a step-by-step plan, set measurable goals, and identify and access necessary supports to succeed. A strong emphasis on career exploration and connecting education to career preparedness is key for our students to be motivated and equipped for their futures. The plan also helps ensure that the youth’s caregiver, social worker, school counselor and The Bridge’s Education Specialist are all on the same page in supporting the youth’s path to graduation and their next step. The Bridge uses a considerable network of partners to connect students with opportunity and educational assistance based on individual needs.