Investing in school supplies for youth in foster care in Michigan

Youth involved in the foster care system experience poor academic performance and disciplinary actions in school more frequently than youth outside of the foster system.1 Poor academics can lead to poor health outcomes, as research shows that higher academic grades are associated with positive health behaviors among high school students including dietary, physical activity and alcohol use behaviors.2 Committed to helping members live healthier lives, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan invested $30K in Foster Families Navigation & Resource Center’s (Foster Families NRC) backpack and fellowship programs.

Foster Families NRC is a nonprofit organization that connects families involved with the foster care system with local resources. Those resources include trainings, school supplies, social supports and essentials such as clothing and shoes. It additionally facilitates Haven 127 which is an interim, trauma-safe waiting space for children recently removed from their homes while they await placement with a family. Foster Families NRC serves the Great Lakes Bay region including Midland, Gladwin, Bay, Arenac, Saginaw and surrounding counties.

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan’s grant supported Foster Families NRC’s backpack program. Through this program, backpacks were filled with over $100 of school supplies and given to program participants. The students were able to choose their own backpack which came filled with school supplies for the entire year. UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan’s grant helped Foster Families NRC assemble 281 backpacks for students in the Great Lakes Bay region. Backpacks were given to students at two large pick-up events which also featured food and outdoor games.

Foster Families NRC plans to continue to host fellowship events that increase social support and resource connection for families involved in the foster care system. These events include game/pizza nights and are intended to help build household and community relationships.

The positive effects that this initiative brings to the community are supported by research. According to the United Way, students who start school with the supplies they need are more motivated, have higher self-esteem and over time have higher rates of high school graduation, secondary education pursuits and career success.3

One foster mom who attended the event spoke to the impact on the children in her care, a girl in 4th grade and an 11-year-old boy with special needs. The mother voiced her appreciation for the ability to attend events where both children in her care were valued. She mentioned that it’s not often that the little boy is acknowledged at events, and she was happy that both children were able to get supplies that fulfilled their individual needs.

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan remains committed to the academic and health outcomes of youth involved in foster care. Its support of Foster Families NRC’s backpack program helped 281 local students get a head start on the school year. 

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