New Tutoring Program Aims to Help Students in Foster Care Stay in School

Many kids in the foster care system end up falling behind in school and eventually dropping out. A new program wants to change that pattern. Our education reporter, Lindsey Christ, has more.

Rajiv Goswami invited two people to his high school graduation: his tutor, Dylan, and his mother.

"This was the milestone I had to pass," Goswami said.

Rajiv spent the past four years in the foster care system and by donning a cap and gown, he was beating the odds. Just a third of city kids in foster care get their high school diploma.

"The transition to foster care really made it hard for me to juggle my school work and the responsibilities of being a foster kid," Goswami said.

Two years ago, he became part of a tutoring program through the New York Foundling, the social services agency assigned to his case. Foster students are paired with a tutor who is trained to deal with kids in trauma. They meet once a week, on the student's terms.

"We’ve doubled down on education," said Bill Baccaglini, president of The NY Foundling. "We believe here that beyond keeping kids safe, perhaps our greatest obligation to them is to get them educated."

The Foundling began the $500,000 a year program three years ago. It serves 100 students, and early results are promising. The graduation rate has gone from 34 percent to 55 percent for students involved.

"Once they get a bite, once they get a taste of victory and they realize, 'I can do that problem, I can answer that question,' then it all opens up," Baccaglini said.  

Students are paid $10 to attend the tutoring sessions and are sometimes rewarded with gifts.

"There may be those that debate it but we don’t apologize for it if it costs me a few dollars to have a young person show up for a tutoring session, I’m all in," Baccaglini said.

Rajiv says Dylan helped him get back on track in school and then coached him through the college application process. Rajiv was accepted to Baruch, which he plans to attend in the fall.

Dylan eventually became a trusted friend.

"I was on trial discharge and it was the first meeting we had after I got placed back into foster care and Dylan told me that if I ever needed anything — if I ever needed to talk about my feelings he was always on call," Goswami said.

The two plan to resume their weekly study sessions as soon as college begins in the fall.

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