Evidence and Interest Grow for Program Promoting Educational Success for Students in Foster Care

Posted July 28, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog promotingeducationalsuccess 2016

We’ve known for years that chil­dren who do well in school have a much bet­ter chance of becom­ing suc­cess­ful and inde­pen­dent adults than those who fall behind. So it’s espe­cial­ly dis­turb­ing that kids in fos­ter care, who already face a host of chal­lenges in their young and vul­ner­a­ble lives, often strug­gle might­i­ly in the class­room. Many of those stu­dents, for exam­ple, change schools at much high­er rates than their peers and are often enrolled in the low­est per­form­ing schools – with dev­as­tat­ing results. Stud­ies show chil­dren in fos­ter care under­per­form every group of stu­dents on statewide test­ing and expe­ri­ence the high­est dropout rates.

There’s grow­ing evi­dence, how­ev­er, that inno­v­a­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive strate­gies aimed at improv­ing edu­ca­tion­al out­comes for stu­dents in fos­ter care are begin­ning to take hold across the coun­try. One excit­ing exam­ple is Fos­terEd, an ini­tia­tive of the Nation­al Cen­ter for Youth Law (NCYL) that was first launched in Indi­ana in 2009.

The Casey Foun­da­tion has been sup­port­ing the devel­op­ment and eval­u­a­tion of Fos­terEd since 2012, includ­ing fund­ing evi­dence-build­ing for the San­ta Cruz pilot and a recent­ly launched pro­gram in New Mex­i­co. The Foundation’s Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group, which seeks to increase evi­dence of effec­tive­ness of pro­grams that can be imple­ment­ed at scale by child- and fam­i­ly- serv­ing pub­lic agen­cies to improve child well-being, sees promise in Fos­terEd as a wise invest­ment of pub­lic fund­ing. Ilene Berman, a senior asso­ciate at the Foun­da­tion, notes that while Fos­terEd is still in ear­ly stages of build­ing evi­dence for pro­gram effec­tive­ness and posi­tion­ing for larg­er scale, the ini­tial out­comes and grow­ing demand from pol­i­cy­mak­ers sug­gest that more pos­i­tive edu­ca­tion­al out­comes for fos­ter youth are in reach.”

Based on the knowl­edge that progress is made when mul­ti­ple indi­vid­u­als and agen­cies work togeth­er to boost a child’s aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment, Fos­terEd ensures each young per­son in its pro­gram is assigned an Edu­ca­tion Cham­pi­on” to pro­mote his or her long-term edu­ca­tion­al suc­cess. The stu­dent is also sup­port­ed by an edu­ca­tion team, made up of engaged adults, care­givers, teach­ers and child wel­fare case­work­ers, that devel­ops an indi­vid­u­al­ized edu­ca­tion plan based on the student’s aca­d­e­m­ic strengths and needs and then tracks the results. In addi­tion, the Fos­terEd pro­gram facil­i­tates sys­tem-lev­el changes to ensure youth edu­ca­tion­al out­comes. From the start, Fos­terEd lead­er­ship has been com­mit­ted to using evi­dence to design the pro­gram and gath­er­ing evi­dence about pro­gram effec­tive­ness to inform con­tin­u­ous improvement.

Fos­terEd has con­tin­ued to gain sig­nif­i­cant momen­tum. In 2013, the pro­gram was pilot­ed in San­ta Cruz Coun­ty, Cal­i­for­nia with promis­ing results and intro­duced at a demon­stra­tion site in Pima Coun­ty, Ari­zona, the fol­low­ing year. Stud­ies of these pilots found that the vast major­i­ty of the 528 youth involved in the pro­gram increased their school atten­dance and reached aca­d­e­m­ic and social devel­op­ment goals.

That progress has paid off. At the request of state and local pol­i­cy lead­ers, Fos­terEd is now being pilot­ed in New Mex­i­co for youth in fos­ter care and under pro­ba­tion super­vi­sion. Last year, a bill was passed that increased fund­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion Fos­ter Youth Ser­vices pro­gram that mir­rors many of the prac­tices that were pilot­ed in San­ta Cruz. In May, Arizona’s Gov. Doug Ducey signed into leg­is­la­tion a bill to estab­lish and fund the statewide expan­sion of the pro­gram, call­ing Fos­terEd a proven pro­gram with best practices.”

Read more about edu­ca­tion­al sta­bil­i­ty for youth in fos­ter care in Casey’s 2014 report: Sus­tain­ing Momentum.”

Learn more about the Foundation’s work to build evidence

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