May is National Foster Care Month and a time to honor these brave youth who, due to no fault of their own, find themselves in extremely stressful and often deplorable conditions. FLEX High is dedicated to being a haven for foster children who want to stay in school and graduate.
There are currently about 16,000 children in foster care in Ohio and 13,000 in Michigan – and most will remain in the system for years. During the pandemic, the availability of foster parents has diminished, so thousands of kids are waiting for a foster family. Sadly, the dropout rate for foster children is three times higher than other low-income students.
We provide extra support for our many foster care and homeless student population,” said Alicia Henry, principal. “Our students tend to have behavioral issues, evidence of trauma and need basic services. They are also bright, creative and resilient. Most of our public schools simply are not equipped to handle foster teens. We are.”
All our schools have an on-site counselor who acts as a foster liaison, working with other members of the student’s support team to provide wraparound services. A multi-tiered support includes the basics of safety, food, clothing, transportation and financial aid options. Their education program is customized to their needs, infused with trauma-informed practices and enriched with experiences like field trips, job training and mentoring.
One success story is Otani, who spent her childhood in group and foster homes with the odds against her. Severally neglected as a child, she was abandoned by her mother at age seven and placed in foster care. By 17 she had a baby and soon dropped out of high school. Once she found us, not only did she graduate high school, but she did so with honors and was the commencement speaker at her graduation.
Otani recently earned her MBA with a specialization in international business from National University. See where Otani is today in this video.