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

Posted July 28, 2016
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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