How well are state education systems serving students in foster care? Indiana has taken an important step to finding out, releasing a detailed report on educational outcomes for Indian's young people in foster care that advocates say should help leaders better allocate resources to ensure youth graduate from high school and prepare for careers.
Indiana Connected By 25, the lead agency for the Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative® in the state, advocated for the report. “Indiana needs to ensure youth in foster care are not denied equitable educational opportunities due to their involvement with the child welfare system,” says Brent Kent, CEO of the organization.
The report, mandated by a 2018 state law, found that Indiana schools were more likely to take actions against young people in foster care that interrupt or dilute their education, including:
- expelling them at twice the rate of their peers;
- approving graduation waivers ― which allow students to graduate without meeting all requirements and that may leave them without necessary skills — at rates higher than their peers not in foster care (21% compared to 8%); and
- holding them back at twice the rate of their peers.
As a result of these and other barriers, about 65 percent of Indiana students living in foster care graduate from high school, compared with 88% of students overall in the state.
A recent Casey Foundation report, Future Savings: The Economic Potential of Successful Traditions from Foster Care to Adulthood, found that if young people transitioning from foster care graduated at the same rate as peers not in foster care, 5,300 more would have high school diplomas each year nationally, with a $2.17 billion increase in collective lifetime earnings.
“Supporting young people in their education is always a good investment,” said Leslie Gross, director of the Jim Casey Initiative. “By taking a hard look at the data, Indiana can come together to make sure young people in foster care have what they need to succeed in school and beyond.”
What happens next? The law requires the state to develop a plan to address issues for students in foster care by June 30, 2019. Kent believes an even larger plan and more resources for schools are needed to ensure young people in foster care graduate from high school and continue on to college and career training programs.
Learn more about investing in the potential of youth transitioning from foster care