We must help foster children to graduate from high school

The Hill’s July 24 special report, “Children’s Initiatives” covered many important issues, but I’d like to add another: helping children in foster care graduate from high school.

A high school diploma is the best ticket to a better life for foster kids. A recent series of hearings in the Ways and Means Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee, on which I am ranking member, focused on the challenges facing children in foster care, especially those who “age out” of the system at age 18.

According to experts these numerous challenges put these young people at a distinct disadvantage. For example, youth aging out of foster care have a troubling 33 percent chance of finishing high school, a 60 percent chance of being unemployed, and for young men, a 30 percent chance of being sent to prison at least once before reaching the age of 19.
They are twice as likely as their peers to parent a child outside of marriage, which is a strong predictor of living in poverty and the cycle starting all over again with a new generation.

Part of the reason foster children do not complete high school is too many bounce from home to home and thus from school to school in today’s system. Studies show high school students who change schools even once are less than half as likely to graduate. So it is no wonder there is a 20 percentage-point difference between the high school graduation rates of foster youth and their peers. School stability and high school completion are strongly associated with a better transition to adulthood, and avoiding the negative outcomes listed above.

We should do whatever we can to ensure young people in foster care complete high school. We can start by helping those who want to stay in the same school. One way would be to encourage states to use current child welfare funds for tuition payments or bus vouchers so more children can stay in one school. Whatever approach is taken, improving high school stability for foster youth will increase graduation rates, and thus increase the chances that these young people get a decent job and a positive start on life.

- From Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.)


Dems don’t need him

Joseph Lieberman cannot ditch the Democratic Party fast enough. We’re done with him. And if he’s unsure about joining the Republican Party, I suggest he become the founding member of the Israel First Party, since that seems to be the problem with this guy. I’m sure Tom Lantos, Jane Harmon, and a slew of other House and Senate members would switch to his new party. He should just be open about his loyalties and then people can support him or not.

-From Jeff Softley, Los Angeles

Curious hawkishness

(Regarding article, “Lieberman escalates attack on Iraq critics,” July 31. )I’m curious as to when and how the senator arrived at his hawkish militaristic philosophy along with the strong criticism of his former fellow Democrats. Was it as he saw the horrors of war up close and personal during his Vietnam days of deferral from afar, as he prepared for his law degree courtesy of a student deferral or his subsequent married-with-children deferral?

You have to give old Joe credit for his moral authority credentials that give him “credibility.” At least he lives the life he preaches: pro-military force and family values.

-From Joe Sammarco, Camillus, N.Y.


Lowering the discourse

(Regarding feature, “The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful,” July 25). So Michael Ortiz “refused” to be interviewed for your beauty pageant column? I believe the usual term is “declined.” Perhaps he felt that the media should focus on finding facts instead of lowering the level of discourse even further. Or maybe he just had something worthwhile to do.

-From Jill Watson, Portland, Ore.

So, what’s next?

Nancy Pelosi in the top 10 most beautiful on the Hill? And Robert Byrd is GQ’s sexiest man of the year, right?

-From Chris Parker, Sequim, Wash.