Young people who enter foster care often experience a series of disruptions. In addition to leaving home, they often must change schools — a pattern that leaves them at risk of severing important relationships and falling behind in their education.
Recognizing that educational success plays a key role in a child’s prospects for permanency and eventual success, the Foundation has been working with grantees and partners for years to promote improvements in school stability for youth in foster care. A new report, "Sustaining Momentum: Improving Educational Stability for Youth in Foster Care," describes the policy wins achieved by this effort to help states implement the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.
The law marked a major breakthrough in recognizing the impact of educational instability on young people in foster care. But it left many questions unanswered and some important gaps to be filled. The report examines examples of collaboration among education and child welfare agency leaders, judges and state and local officials to use the law to provide a more stable and successful school experience. Many of the policy wins described came about when agencies formalized ways to share information about students in foster care to provide greater continuity and stability, improve decision making and identify unnecessary obstacles.
While many states have made progress in implementing Fostering Connections, the report identifies six areas of work ahead, including a need for education and child welfare systems to work toward a broader agenda for providing data on and meeting the educational needs of children and youth in foster care.
"Young people in foster care shouldn’t need to be lucky to succeed in school,” says Karina Jiménez Lewis, a senior policy associate with the Foundation who worked on the educational stability portfolio.