June is Graduation month. Like all parents of new diplomates, Sonja Halton holds great pride as she watches another of “her kids” graduate from high school. What’s more, William, her adopted son, was the 13th foster child in her care to do so.

That amazing feat is not easy to accomplish. Sonja’s kids have beaten the odds, as many fostered children do not graduate from high school.

Foster youth and education: Facts and Figures

  • Children in foster care are far more likely to change schools during the school year, to be in special education classes, and to fail to receive passing grades than their general population counterparts.
  • High school dropout rates are 3 times higher for foster youth than for other children coming from low-income families.
  • Only about 50% of foster children graduate from high school.
  • Over 40% of school-aged children in foster care have educational difficulties.

Source: National Foster Youth Institute

Sonja is a mother to 13 children. Among them are her biological children, foster children, children for whom she’s become a guardian, and adopted children. Many of her children are dealing with special needs, trauma and mental illness. Sonja and her mother both became foster parents when she learned that her grandson was being abused.

“I remember the marks I saw on my grandson. Our job is to help them deal with the anger they may have. There is so much grief and loss in these kids’ lives. They need you – to just love them.”

William says his mom gives everyone genuine love. He came to live with her when he was 13 years old. At first, he was resistant to becoming a foster child in someone else’s home. In time, he wanted to be part of the family forever. Then Sonja adopted William.

At each step of the way, William said he found that each child in Sonja’s home got what they needed.

“She’s calm and she treated us all with love.”

William’s foster mom saw William’s talent and interest in math early on and encouraged him.

“She’d always tell me, you can do it all.”

“Education is always #1 and it’s a big way to make sure they stay out of trouble.”

The biggest priority in the Halton home is to get school work done first – and always. Sonja put all of her boys through a private all-boys school where the focus also was on education.

William has graduated high school and also received a job core certificate to operate heavy equipment. His goal is to become a flight attendant. We can’t wait to see him soar!.