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DHS news release

September 10, 2004

Media Contact: Patricia Feeny (503) 945-6955
Program Contact: Rosemary Iavenditti (503) 945-5688

Foster youth scholarship program helps kids beat the odds

For some youth, college is the next natural step after graduating from high school. For youth leaving foster care, it can be an extraordinary effort.

Rand Johnson, who came into foster care when he was 15, is now a political science major at the University of Oregon.

"Helping foster youth grow to become employable, successful adults is a critical challenge," said Johnson. "When you are conditioned to expect less or do without, you don't have the resources in you to take the first step."

Johnson, who will be 22 in December, attributes a lot of his success to a federal scholarship program.

The federally financed Chafee Education and Training Scholarship program allows eligible youth to receive up to $5,000 per academic year to help with the cost of attending postsecondary education or vocational training. The Oregon Student Assistance Commission processes all applications and, with the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS), determines the amount of awards.

Eligible youth include those who are currently in foster care with the Oregon Department of Human Services, a member of one of the nine federally recognized tribes, or former foster youth who were in foster care with DHS or one of the tribes for at least 180 days after their 14th birthday.

"The application process, including essays, takes about three to four hours," said Johnson. "But I don't know of many jobs that pay $5,000 for three or four hours of work. If you don't jump on it someone else will."

Rosemary Iavenditti, who oversees the DHS Independent Living Program, said there are about 220 teens who age out of the foster care system each year.

"The research indicates that children aging out of foster care are at increased risk of poverty, homelessness, addiction, and re-entry into the public service system or adult criminal courts," said Iavenditti. "Youth who have lived in foster care and achieved their goals for further education or training have beaten the odds against them."

Right now funds are available to eligible foster youth. But the scholarships must be awarded by Sept. 30. Applications can be downloaded at www.osac.state.or.us/ChafeeEtv.html

Applications should be mailed to: ILP Desk E76, 500 Summer St. NE, Salem, OR 97301.

Funds are also available to help eligible youth who had to take out loans to fund their education last year, 2003-04 academic year. But any funds for loan repayments must be awarded by Sept. 28. Call (503) 945-5688 by Sept. 17 for further information regarding loan repayment.