New Eastern Michigan program will help alumni from foster care succeed

by Debra Johnson, Published January 29, 2013


YPSILANTI, Mich. - It's called MAGIC, yet there is nothing mystical about its benefits for alumni from foster care. Mentorship Access Guidance In College (MAGIC) is a new program at Eastern Michigan University designed to provide support services to students who have aged out of foster care.

Students will receive encouragement, mentoring, and life skills coaching to ensure a successful transition from foster care into adulthood and university life. The program will also provide social enrichment activities, assist with housing, and improve a student's financial literacy as they graduate and enter the workforce. The MAGIC program is part of the Academic Success Partnerships, within the Division of Academic and Student Affairs.

Elise Buggs, director of Academic Success Partnerships

"Students who have aged out of foster care are largely under-served as an academic demographic," says Elise Buggs, director of Academic Success Partnerships at Eastern. "MAGIC focuses on the unique characteristics of this group and tailors programs and opportunities that directly address their needs.

"They have already beaten the odds by getting into college - we want to be sure they have all the tools they need to not only be successful in their educational pursuits, but in all their endeavors going forward."

Eastern was awarded a three-year grant from the State of Michigan and is eligible to receive up to $224,000 per year to help foster care alumni students. Funding will help pay for programming, workshops, and emergency assistance for participants, as well as help promote the MAGIC program.

Extensive research reveals sobering statistics about foster youth and why there is such a need for support services for these young adults.

According to a Midwest Study conducted in 2011 by Mark E. Courtney, a professor in the School of Social Service Administration, at the University of Chicago, along with other colleagues, only 3% of alumni of foster care complete a bachelor's degree by the age of 26 compared to 24% of the general population.

The same report said the mean income for alumni of foster care is $13,989, compared to a mean income of $32,312 for the general population, and only 48% are employed, compared to 80% of the general population. To read more statistics, visit the Midwest Study homepage.

In a different study conducted by Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI) in 2007, it states the rates of post-traumatic stress syndrome among alumni of foster care are higher than among war veterans. It also reported that youth who left foster care are twice as likely to be unable to pay rent, and four times as likely to be evicted." MYOI is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Human Services, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, the Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency, and many other local community partners. 

While in the program, students will work one-on-one with an independent living skills coach who will develop a plan to help each student achieve success, graduate from Eastern, and secure independence.

Joi Rencher, independent living skills coach

"We will help students learn how to set realistic goals for themselves and to create a roadmap towards degree completion as they move into a career," said Joi Rencher, independent living skills coach and coordinator for the MAGIC program at Eastern.

There are ten other schools with foster care alumni programs for students in the state of Michigan. The MAGIC program is free to foster care alumni who are 21 years old or younger. To apply or learn more, visit the EMU MAGIC program homepage or email at or call 734-487-0899.



Debra Johnson

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