Summer Matters for Youth in Foster Care

By Angela Griffin, Treehouse Chief Program Officer

Treehouse has served youth in foster care during the summer months in a variety of ways over the past 10 years, including through summer learning academies, on-site credit retrieval and back-to-school prep activities. 

Youth who participate in our Graduation Success program meet weekly with an Education Specialist to review their ABCs (attendance, behavior and courses), set personally meaningful goals and complete action steps towards their goals. They also focus on staying engaged in school, self-advocating for their educational needs and eliminating any barriers that may interfere with high school completion.  

In 2013, we decided that in order to achieve our goal of increasing graduation rates for youth in foster care, we would need to continue providing the same level of school year support into the summer months.  

Midway through the school year, our staff begin helping their youth plan for summer. Youth transitioning between middle and high school are encouraged to participate in summer bridge programs that acclimate them to their new schools and the high school experience. Some youth experience a school transition due to a placement change or a decision to move into a school more conducive to their learning needs, so they work on transition plans that identify any resource needs. 

When youth are deficient in course credits, the summer months are the best time of year to focus on completing summer school or credit retrieval courses. Forty percent of our youth are in special education programs, so the summer months are also a good time to plan for academic accommodation needs that must be addressed as soon as the school year starts. 

During the school year, our youth expend a lot of energy working toward their academic goals and staying engaged in school despite the trauma they have experienced. We believe it is equally important they use the summer months to relax and enjoy the experiences of childhood. Our Little Wishes program provides resources for youth to participate in summer camps, including leadership camps, attend sporting events and engage in a variety of recreational activities.  

Some staff hold their weekly check-ins with their youth at parks and community centers. They engage in activities such as tossing Frisbees, kicking around soccer balls, shooting hoops on the basketball court or just taking leisurely strolls. They have learned that connecting with youth outside of the school environment in more informal ways allows for deeper conversations around their interests and goals. 

The summer truly matters for our youth in foster care to stay connected with those who will hold them accountable for achieving their goals. The youth continue to develop the motivation, persistence and self-confidence to carry them through each school year.

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About the Author

As Chief Program Officer, Angela Griffin provides strategic leadership for Treehouse’s educational programs throughout Washington. Under her guidance, the organization helps youth in foster care unlock their potential, graduate from high school and pave a path to achieve their goals for the future.

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