We’re starting a blog! It’s something that we have been thinking of doing for a few years now and we thought it made sense to start with an explanation of what we do, particularly because people have a very hard time figuring out exactly what we do. Most people think we are tutors, and for 8 years we have been explaining that while we sometimes tutor some of our kids, what we do is actually much more complicated than that. We saw a gap between the foster care system and the school system for children in foster care, and we started BFF to be the bridge!
A few things make our program unique. For one, we specialize in children in foster care, so all of our students have been abused, neglected or abandoned, and are living in a foster home, group home or with a relative (other than their parents). They have very extraordinary circumstances and come to school with a lot of baggage. Another special part of BFF is that if the kids change placements, and need to change schools, we go with them. We are also unique in that we stay with them after they turn 18, and all the way through college.
The program works by pairing every student with an academic coach. Originally, we thought about calling them mentors, but when you hear that word, you often think of bowling or going for pizza, so we decided to stay away from it since we are 100% focused on education.
Our programs are based on consistency and positivity. Our coaches meet their students in school, every week, and guide them through semester by semester. We start with the little ones in kindergarten and go right through to college. Every age comes with their own set of challenges and we have developed tools and resources to help at each grade level.
We focus on reading for our elementary school students, because once learned, reading is something you never forget, and also because reading is crucial to be successful in all years of school, and beyond. Our middle and high school programs are more about understanding what it takes to be a better student and how to work with teachers to achieve success in a class. We work on things like study and test taking skills, organizing a backpack, using a planner and developing habits that successful students need.
College might be the hardest of all. The 3% national graduation rate for foster kids exists for good reason. We need to work closely with the professors and advisors to make sure our kids can navigate college. We are seeing success and it is very encouraging!
At our office we have a saying, “it’s all about the kids”. Our staff of 13 literally spend every day figuring out how to best help our kids. We are devoted to them! If you haven’t been to our office, you should stop by for a tour and to say hi. We try to keep it bright and cheery, like the futures that we are helping to mold for our kids!
It’s the first day of school, hard to believe. Where did the summer go? One of the best parts of the end of summer has to be our Back to School party. It’s 1 of the only 2 times a year that we get many of our students are together for a fun, non-school event. Our holiday party is the other time.
We always try to plan a fun event for the kids, and this year it was a Mexican Fiesta! We held it at Palm Beach State College, since we just can’t miss an opportunity to get our kids on a school campus for a positive experience. The President of the school, Ava Parker, gave the opening remarks and taught the kids the Panther Roar! She was followed by Dean Van Williams who made the kids feel very welcome. It really seemed to make the kids feel special.
We set up a “market” with stations of toiletries, clothing, books, etc.; all the things we have been collecting (and you have been donating). The kids got a chance to “shop” and choose the things they wanted. This year we did something really special, to spotlight the importance of reading. Local author Debbie Reed Fischer was there signing copies of her book This is Not the Abby Show for each student. It was a great experience for them!
The kids made their own tacos, and had specially decorated cupcakes thanks to our very own Mandy Bennett and Karen Meyer. (interesting BFF footnote, we have 4 different Karen’s working for us!) Another treat was Hoffman’s chocolates courtesy of our BFF Gloria Hosh. Delish!
We always have a professional photographer take picture of our kids. Then we print them, frame them, and give it to the kids as a memory. One things about kids in foster care, they have very few, if any, pictures of themselves. Thanks to Crystal Lynn Fielding with Photography by Crystal for donating her time and amazing expertise every summer for our kids!
We handed our certificates of participation for our summer book club participants, gave out school supplies, and so much more. One of the most amazing moments of the party was when we got all our college together for a picture. We knew the number, but the impact of seeing them all together was incredible. Foster care is saddled with a 3% college graduation rate. That may apply to everyone else, but not BFF students!
Our whole team was there and it was obvious how important they are to the kids. We don’t often get to see our kids out of school, so this is a treat for us. It was a wonderful day!