This article was updated on July 11 at 1:38 p.m.
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Many Bruins call UCLA their home, but for some it may be their only place of safety.
About 350 UCLA students identify as former host youth, according to a May report UCLA Newsroom Press release. These students, who were previously in foster care, experienced insufficient funding for programs, a lack of quality mental health services and uncertain life situations. But as the pandemic deepens housing insecurity and exacerbates financial hardship, they and other historically underserved communities on campus bear the brunt of the burden.
Unfortunately, UCLA falls short.
UCLA Bruin Guardians Fellows, a program that helps young foster students, current and former, navigate campus life, told administration in a May 11 statement. letter that the university’s current resources are insufficient to support students who are or have been in foster care.
UCLA looks forward to students turning to its administrators when they see injustice. Instead, he should strive to be more inclusive on his own will at all times. Anything less risks the Bruins falling through the cracks.
Young homestay students are hit hard by sharp increases in rent prices and limited housing options in and around UCLA, especially as many students have no housing to return to afterwards. during a school year or during school holidays. It doesn’t help matters that Westwood is one of the most expensive areas in the country for renters.
In addition, young homestay students are also under-represented among those pursuing higher education. While about 31% of the general population earns a bachelor’s degree, only 3-5% of young people in foster care in the United States do so.
This statistic is perhaps not surprising, given the lack of institutional resources for young students in host families. At UCLA, a student said the BGS had fewer than five staff on site.
All of these conditions demand stronger support from UCLA for the host youth community. In its letter, BGS called on the university to reallocate donor funds to cover student housing costs, increase resources and funding for the BGS program, and develop community and residential spaces for young students on the campus, among other demands.
At the system level, the University of California Foster Youth Student Coalition is making requests for more mental health resources, accessible housing and an increase in staff.
As a university supposed to be committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, UCLA must make higher education more accessible to young students in host families. This is an essential step to meet the requirements of BGS and UCFYSC.
In all fairness, UCLA is creating an endowment fund for the BGS program following a million dollar donation from Jill and Timothy Harmon, who were former foster parents. The endowment would also fund the salary of a full-time social worker for the program.
While this is a promising first step, UCLA should listen to students to understand and meet the specific needs of young Bruins in foster care. It should also contribute and use all of its resources, expertise, and existing programs – such as UCLA’s Pritzker Center for Child and Family Strengthening – in its efforts to address the issues described.
The pandemic has disrupted the lives of many students, hitting marginalized communities particularly hard. To fulfill its mission as one of the nation’s premier public higher education institutions, UCLA must provide housing and food security for all of its students, especially those who may be underserved.
Failure to do so makes college anything but a home.