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 experiences leave emotional scars, but they create an additional problem: Kids in foster care are almost always behind their peers academically.
In Florida, the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key received a grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund to help reverse the academic slide of children in foster care. Thanks to the grant, which supplemented its own fundraising, the club raised enough money to provide professional tutoring to more than 40 students through the Children’s Guardian Fund.
The club’s assistance came at a critical time, allowing 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.
Every week for six months, professional tutors worked one-on-one with students –– from kids in first grade to students earning their GED. Tutors identified the students’ educational gaps, made sure they completed their homework and taught them how to ask questions.
Such tutoring is important for kids in foster care because they might move as many as two or three times during a school year, says Svetlana Ivashchenko, a member of the Longboat Key Kiwanis Club and executive director of the Children’s Guardian Fund.
“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.”
The Longboat Key Kiwanians don’t work directly with the kids, but they have created a service component for the project: The club is recording members talking about their careers to create a database for students to browse so they can envision different paths to success.
“(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,” says Lynn Larson, the club’s immediate past president. “But opportunities open up.”
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Kiwanis magazine.