Morency Foster Youth Iowa Scholarship
Kathi Morency had no idea that reading The White Oleander would lead to the establishment of a scholarship to benefit foster children.
Prior to Kathi reading the Janet Fitch novel, the Morency’s had no experience with the foster care system. “We’d never had a foster child, we’d never known anyone with a foster child … the book just raised such a concern in me,” Kathi said.
The White Oleander tells the story of a teen’s struggles after having been through the foster care system. “It made me think, if there’s a book about it, there must be cases like that right here,” Kathi said.
The Morency’s began to research the subject and discovered it was indeed an issue, but having as little experience in establishing scholarship funds as they did in foster care, they knew they needed to enlist some help. That’s when they came to the Community Foundation. “(Foundation President) Susan Skora gave us a lot of good ideas,” Kathi said.
Another plus for the Morency’s in working with the Foundation was that their fund would be endowed. “As the fund grows, we hope to help more and more students,” Kathi said.
As the Morency’s delved in the subject matter, they found that foster children not only tend to have more difficulty scholastically in grades K-12, they have a greater likelihood of becoming teen parents, depending on public assistance, participating in substance abuse, going homeless, or winding up in the criminal justice system.
A study by Casey Family Programs concluded that fewer than 27 percent of foster children that graduate from high school go on to college, compared to 52 percent of high school graduates overall. And the college dropout rate of foster youth is far higher than the rate among other students.
According to Iowa’s Department of Human Services, the state gives what it can to help fund higher education for foster youth, but it’s on a first come, first serve basis, and it’s not enough.
“These kids are completely on their own at age 18. They’re in a bad spot, and they didn’t do anything wrong to get there,” Steve said. “If we can help get them in the right direction, they’ll end up being an asset to the community, rather than a drain.”
Kathi says that in promoting her scholarship, she also hopes to generate public interest on the subject, and to gain the attention of the Legislature.
The Morency Foster Youth Scholarship is intended to assist current foster care young adults to better themselves through continuing education.
For more information about the Morency Foster Youth Scholarship, visit the Community Foundation’s Scholarship page.