Each year, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awards $5,000 seed grants to fund the launch or early-stage growth of a project, program, or venture. Foster Care Support Project (FCSP), run by Luke Lezhanskyy ’20, Katerin Osorto ’20, Ruby Lu ’19, and Angela Duong ’21, was one of this year’s winners. This is their first report since receiving funding from the PCSE in March 2019.
We would like to first extend my sincere gratitude to the Albritton Center and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship for believing in our vision to transform Connecticut’s foster care system through mentorship. The financial resources that we’ve received have opened up so many new possibilities for us. Speaking of which, it almost seems like a whole world of events has transpired since our project was awarded the Seed Grant in March.
In keeping with our mission to keep expanding, we held two info sessions for students interested in joining next year’s mentor cohort. Collectively, about 30 students attended the sessions, most of whom were added to our existing mailing list of approximately 140 students. We also invited social workers and community members to speak at our info sessions for the first time, and they proved to be valuable additions to the conversations we held surrounding the value of mentorship in improving foster children’s lives.
In the end, 16 students expressed interest in becoming mentors next year. All of our mentors have to complete a state and federal background check process, which lasts five months and costs about $130 per person. We were fortunate enough to have IPPI — the foster care provider with which we’ve partnered — cover all related expenses when we cleared 28 mentors. This year we decided to do things a little differently. We’ve split up our pool of 16 interested students into two groups of eight: half will be cleared over the summer for work in the fall, and the other half will start the background check process this fall for work in Spring 2020. Two weeks ago, we started processing the first half of eight students, and we anticipate them joining us in September when we resume our work. Relatedly, we’re covering half of the total cost of running the background checks, with IPPI covering the other half.
Since our project has had to rely on the charity of our partners throughout the year, many of the supplies we’ve been using were loaned to us. Among these supplies are the board games that IPPI gave us to use with our younger children. These games are used, however, by all the foster children whom IPPI supervises, and so often they were missing components. Thanks to the Seed Grant, we were able to buy about $140 worth of brand new board games specifically for our children, and it is now available to them during every mentoring session.
We had initially planned to host a sports clinic — a field day of sorts — for our children this semester. We had enlisted the support of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, and were planning on inviting IPPI’s children to come in on a Saturday to shoot some hoops with collegiate athletes. As it happened, we encountered some setbacks, primarily because of the unnecessarily long process of securing approval from several layers of authority within Wesleyan. Consequently, although IPPI managed to gather 25 willing children, we were forced to push the clinic back to next semester. We anticipate running it successfully in the fall now that we are acquainted with the whole process.
On May 14th, we met with 15 foster care providers within Connecticut at a monthly meeting in the IPPI headquarters at Meriden. We discussed our work the results that we’ve seen over the past two semesters. This meeting reflects that facet of our mission that strives to expand to all of the foster care providers in this state. Over the summer, we will continue communicating with them to find a provider with whom we could partner.
Over the summer, Kat Osorto ‘20 will be replacing Luke Lezhanskyy as the coordinator of the project. Kat is a diligent and meticulous leader, and she will no doubt lead our project to new heights in the forthcoming academic year.