"I mean, these youth they're falling between the cracks. When they age out of foster care, they're homeless they're becoming homeless, or they get incarcerated. They're having early pregnancies, and then those kids end up going back into foster care." Quote by Shalita O'Neales during an interview with Karen Hosler, Baltimore and Annapolis, for 88.1, WYPR.
With the possibility of no supports or family members to fall back upon once out of the child welfare system, it is critical for all stakeholders to see education as an integral part of permanency.
Why is Education Important? Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that adults age 18 and over with a high school diploma earn an average of $28,645 per year compared to $19,169 per year for those without a high school diploma. EPE Research Center found that high school dropouts are more likely to be unemployed, earn lower wages, have higher rates of public assistance, be single parents, and have children at a younger age. Educational success can have a grave impact on a youth’s self confidence and ability to succeed in their life.
Children who have been abused or neglected and children who are placed in foster care generally have lower scores on standardized tests, poorer school grades, and more behavior problems and suspensions from school than comparison groups. (Aldgate et al., 1992; Courtney, Terao, and Bost, 2004; Crozier and Barth, 2005; Kendall-Tackett and Eckenrode, 1996; Kurtz et al., 1993; Smithgall et al., 2004). Between one-third and two thirds of current or former foster youth drop out before completing high school, or by age 19, have received neither a high school diploma nor a GED compared to10 percent of their same-age peers. (Blome, 1997; Courtney and Dworsky, 2005; Joiner, 2001) What do the National Statistics Show?
In a study of former foster youth in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin who had aged out of the foster care system, nearly one-quarter of the young adults still had not obtained a high school diploma or a GED by age 21. (Courtney et al., 2007). Over a third of young adults reported having had 5 or more school changes. (Courtney, M.E., Terao, S. & Bost, N. 2004) Research shows that youth lose an average of 4 to 6 months of educational attainment each time they change schools. What do the National Statistics Show?
Results from the Independent Living Chart Book compiled by DCF in 2007. Data comes from over 6,700 surveys conducted throughout Florida on youth age 13-23: 45% of youth between the age 13-17 under the care of Family Services were above or at grade level. 66% of youth age 13-17 under the care of Family Services passed the grade level FCAT. This drops to 61% when just looking at youth who are 17.
46% of the children that were not performing at or above grade level and/or did not pass the grade level FCAT received remedial services to improve chances to perform at or above grade level. High school diploma was the number one chosen educational goal for children 13-17. However, only a little more than half of the youth in this age group were at or above grade level.
Fostering Connections Act: Coordination to keep the child in the same school. Immediate enrollment in a new school if necessary. Increases federal funding for education-related transportation costs. Requires states to provide assurances that every school–age child in foster care or receiving an adoption assistance or subsidized guardianship payment, is enrolled as a full-time elementary or secondary school student or has completed secondary school. Child and Family Services Review: Well Being Outcome 2: Children receive appropriate services to meet their educational needs.
“If the systems responsible for the well-being of foster children—child welfare, education, and the courts—do not place a strong emphasis on the education of foster children and work together to promote success in school, education will fall through the cracks.” (Foster Children & Education, Vera Institute of Justice, 2004) Wolanin, Thomas. Higher Education Opportunities for Foster Youth A Primer for Policymakers. December 2005
Six Principles for Education Reform 1.Early education is essential. 2.Quality education services are critical for successful development of all youth. 3.If outcomes matter, they must be measured. 4.Support services are needed to help some youth succeed. 5.Interagency collaboration and communication is vital. 6.Change requires within-agency and cross-agency leadership. Leone, P. & Weinberg, L. (2010)
Initiative to Improve the Education for Children in Orange and Osceola County: Developed an education subcommittee in Orange and later in Osceola County. Mandated annual education training for case managers and supervisors. CBC leadership spoke with School Board members and administers regarding necessity of collaboration. Opened up data sharing with school districts.
Created an education manual for foster parents and case managers. Established a link with McKinney- Vento Liaisons. Offered training to various stakeholders. Developed an Education Liaison program.
Education Liaison Program 3 staff covering 2 counties –2 education, 1 social worker Licensed Foster Care as primary focus Provides critical linkage between school systems and child welfare at micro and macro levels
Primary Goals Enrollment and Stability of client school –Transfer of records Information Sharing and Data tracking Identification of needs Special Education Assistance Advocacy and Training
Role and Tasks Conduct initial educational screening on all children entering care (prioritize and triage). Provide an education summary for children coming into care. Assist with keeping students in school of origin, when appropriate. –Transportation –Fast Pass to enrollment Contact the Foster Care Designee – provide information. Serve as a link between the school and case manager.
Role (con’t) Collect educational data (FCAT scores, grades). Monitor grade level performance and educational milestones. Verify/Follow-up on Exceptional Student Education, 504 plans Attend Individualized Education Plan/disciplinary concerns meetings – if needed monitor follow up services
Role (con’t) Provide educational advocacy to ensure appropriate educational services. Train foster parents, case managers and others on educational advocacy. –Educational manual –Annual trainings Educate community partners, foster parents and case managers on changes in education law and how it impacts children in foster care. Provide technical assistance and consultation