Shortly after being selected as the number one overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Alex returned to San Diego. During this trip home he was invited to visit San Pasqual Academy, a residential school for foster teens whose football team had competed for the California Interscholastic Federation Championship that past fall, to speak to the team. After meeting and talking with students and staff, Alex realized just how important family support had been to him and that if foster teens were going to succeed as they moved into adulthood they would need similar support.
As Alex has often said, “When I was 18 heading off to college I had the support of family, coaches and a scholarship. I can’t imagine how we can expect foster teens to be successful when we say to them “you are now 18 and we are cutting you off—so go out and make it on your own.”
Forming His Foundation: Focus on Foster Youth
Following his visit to San Pasqual Academy, Alex met with individuals and leaders familiar with the foster care system, learning a great deal about the issues. This included a meeting with Antwone Fisher, noted author and screenwriter and former foster youth. Knowing that he wanted to help foster kids in some way, Alex brought together a select group of individuals with experience and expertise in many areas including business, community, politics and social welfare. As a result of this day of working with and hearing from these leaders, Alex decided to create his own foundation committed to efficiently helping foster youth in transition out of the system.
What We’ve Done
In order to address the daunting obstacles that former foster youths face, the Alex Smith Foundation has:
- Partnered with educational institutions and other nonprofit organizations to give young adults the resources to help them successfully transition to life after foster care. Such entities include San Diego State University, the Stuart Foundation, the Consensus Organizing Center, and the Andrus Family Fund.
- Developed and supported new programs (Guardian Scholars Program, college classes for high school foster youth and others) through the Guardian Scholars Program, the Alex Smith Foundation has supported 23 former foster youths through college.
- Advocated for changes to state and national foster care systems before the California State Legislature and U.S. Congress.
- Partnered with the Cornerstones of Care of Kansas City and worked closely with their YES program.
Asking "Why?" Is not Enough
Our society spends billions of dollars on foster children, yet we abandon these kids when they're on the verge of becoming adults.
Why is this happening? It seems like we're dropping the ball at the goal line.
The numbers are sobering and discouraging: Within two years of leaving the system...
- Fifty percent of former foster youths end up unemployed.
- One-third require public assistance.
- Almost one-third become homeless.
- Approximately 25 percent become incarcerated.
- Fewer than 1 in 10 attend college, and only 1 in 100 actually graduate.
Source: Children's Law Center of Los Angeles
At the Alex Smith Foundation, we don't believe in sitting on the sidelines, watching as youths struggling to move into adulthood are repeatedly failed by a foster care system in need of change.
And as critical as asking "why?" is to understanding the problem, we are even more compelled to ask "How can we help?"