A Kiwanis Children’s Fund grant supports tutoring for Florida foster children.
By Jennifer Morlan
Children in foster care face almost unfathomable challenges: trauma from having lived in neglectful, abusive or volatile homes, the loss of friends and family relationships, unpredictable living arrangements.
Not only do these factors leave emotional scars on children, but they have an additional effect — children who are in foster care are almost always behind their peers educationally.
The Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key in Florida received a grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund to help reverse the academic slide experienced by children in foster care. With the grant and fundraising, the club raised enough money for the Children’s Guardian Fund to provide professional tutoring to more than 40 students.
Svetlana Ivashchenko, a member of the Longboat Key Kiwanis Club and executive director of the Children’s Guardian Fund, says the Kiwanis assistance came at a critical time and allowed tutoring to continue during the break between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. Without the club’s help, the organization, which is based in Sarasota, Florida, would have had to pause services during that break due to loss of income and greater need during the pandemic.
Professional tutors worked one-on-one weekly for six months with kids in first grade through GED preparation, Ivashchenko says. Tutors identified the students’ educational gaps, made sure they completed their homework and taught them how to ask questions.
Such tutoring is important because children in foster care might move two to three times during a school year.
“A child might be learning multiplication in one school, but a teacher in the next school is working on division,” Ivashchenko explains. “They feel stupid, in addition to worrying about things most kids don’t have to deal with. Tutoring gives them their academic future back. Without it, they fall farther and farther behind.”
While the Kiwanians aren’t working directly with the children, they are creating a service component to the project. The club is recording members talking about their careers to create a database for students to browse so they can see different paths to success, says Longboat Key Kiwanis Club President Lynn Larson.
“(It’s) not always a straight line to get to where you want to be, and sometimes you may not even know where you want to be,” Larson says, “but opportunities open up.”
This story originally appeared in the October/November 2021 issue of Kiwanis magazine.