Educational Stability for Children and Youth in Foster Care
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Educational Stability for Children and Youth in Foster Care

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A discussion of educational stability that provides background information and highlights the implications of the Fostering Connections Act of 2008

A discussion of educational stability that provides background information and highlights the implications of the Fostering Connections Act of 2008

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  • 1. Educational Stability for Children and Youth in Foster Care Karina Jiménez Lewis, MSW Policy Department Casey Family Services New Haven, CT
  • 2. Mission
    • Casey Family Services is committed to improving the lives of at-risk children and to strengthening families and communities by providing high-quality, cost-effective services that advance both positive practice and sound public policy .
  • 3. Today’s Goal
    • To engage in a discussion with members of the Maine Citizen Review Panel (CRP) about educational stability by linking the Fostering Connections to Success Act to local and state efforts in Maine.
  • 4. Youth Voices
    • “ I have gone through four high schools already, and I am only a junior.”
    • Dominque, youth in foster care
    • “ I wish I had stayed in my first high school when I went into foster care.”
    • David, foster care alumnus
    • “ I felt naïve and ignorant when competing with my peers in college.”
    • Vanessa, foster care alumna
  • 5. Why is Educational Stability Important?
    • Environment as a core factor of individuals’ ability to exercise self-determination
    • Educational success, among other factors, holds key to successful, well-adjusted adult life
    • Adverse impact of environment (high mobility rates and lower educational achievement) on children and youth in foster care results in unrealized potential
  • 6. Educational Outcomes of Children and Youth in Foster Care
    • What does the data tell us?
    • National average of two foster placements per year that trigger changes in school placements (AFCARS Report #13, Preliminary 2005 Estimates)
    • High mobility rates result in:
      • failing grades,
      • behavior problems,
      • decreased likelihood of high school completion, and
      • lower overall academic performance than peers not in foster care.
  • 7. Educational Outcomes of Children and Youth in Foster Care
    • 57 percent of children and youth entering foster care between 1995 and 1997 transferred schools for non-educational reasons in the year following foster placement (Conger and Rebeck, 2001)
    • Studies have found that children and youth in foster care change schools multiple times; this impedes their educational progress while in foster care (Courtney et al, 2004)
  • 8. Educational Outcomes of Children and Youth in Foster Care
    • What is the impact of multiple school placements?
    • Loss of important educational, social, cultural connections
    • Significant problems with transferring information and documentation between educational and child welfare systems
    • By sixth grade, students who had changed schools four or more times lost about one year of educational growth (Courtney et al, 2004)
  • 9. Federal Responses
    • Until 2008, the principal federal statute addressing school stability was the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
    • It focuses primarily on children and youth who are homeless who:
      • lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, or
      • are awaiting foster care placement (not defined by the Act - state and local interpretations vary)
      • but only certain children placed in foster care are covered under the statute.
  • 10. Momentum Leading to Reform
    • Documented, growing consensus among leading national child advocacy organizations to raise further awareness about, and provide solutions to address, poor educational achievements of children and youth in foster care attributable to school instability:
    • State policy should ensure that McKinney-Vento Act provisions apply to all children and youth in foster care, in addition to children and youth who are homeless
    • Children and youth in foster care should remain in their schools of origin if it is in their best interest
    • Amend the Act to include children and youth in foster care
  • 11. Eligibility: Beyond Awaiting Foster Care Placement
    • Foster youth who have run away from foster placements and are living in a homeless situation
    • Youth who have been abused and neglected, and are living in a homeless situation, but have not been placed in the custody of the child welfare system
    • School-age youth who have aged out of foster care and are living in a homeless situation
    Some youth who are, or have been, involved in the child welfare system, are eligible for the McKinney-Vento Act, regardless of the definition of “awaiting foster care placement”:
  • 12. Disparity in Services
    • Eligible children and youth have access to supports and services many children in foster care lack.
    • Key provisions:
      • School stability (promoted through transportation and other strategies)
      • Immediate enrollment if stability is not possible
      • School staff charged with promoting and protecting students’ rights
  • 13. The View from the States
    • Delaware - all children ( Vol. 75 Del. Laws, HB 279, Chapter 125)
    • California - landmark legislation providing almost all protections ( 2003 Cal. Stats. Chapter 862, AB 490 )
    • Oregon - mandates preference of foster placements near school of origin; if not possible, child welfare agency to transport ( 2005 OR Laws, HB 3075, Chapter 521)
    • Washington State - emphasizes inter-district collaboration for transportation; some counties mirror Delaware practice ( 2005 Wash. Laws, HB 1079, Chapter 93)
    Many states decided not to wait for resolution through federal intervention and have provided their own interpretation of “awaiting foster care placement” through enacted legislation:
  • 14. The View from the States
      • Other states have also taken a lead promoting school
      • stability for children:
      • FL, VA, AR (Hudner, Dufresne 2007)
      • MD calls for the immediate enrollment and expedited record transfers of all children and youth placed in foster care (2005 MD Laws, SB 426, Chapter 308)
  • 15. The View from the States
    • New England states:
    • NH allows children to continue in school of origin if in best interest (2001 NH Laws, Chapter 294)
    • CT and MA have MOUs in place to include certain children under the McKinney-Vento Act (ABA Legal Center for Foster Care and Education)
    • VT has MOU to maintain an “appropriate” educational placement despite changes in foster home placement. (Memorandum of Understanding; Cate, Dale, Sept. 13, 2007)
    • ME ensures that students who must change schools have same opportunities to earn approved high school diploma (2007 ME H 1296, Chapter 451)
  • 16. Connecticut’s Response
    • Connecticut 2008 legislative
    • session:
    • The role of youth advocacy
    • SB 159
    • CFS’ commitment to policy issue
  • 17. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Public Law 110-351)
    • Comprehensive landmark legislation with far-reaching implications for children and youth in foster care
    • Bipartisan “miracle” that reconciles previous attempts on both houses of Congress to address issues
    • Increases likelihood that permanence and equity will be achieved for more children and youth
  • 18. Addressing Children’s Educational Needs
    • Promoting educational stability:
    • Requires public child welfare agencies to coordinate with the lead educational agency (LEA) so children can remain in their school of origin at the time of placement – unless that is not in the child’s best interest, which then requires immediate enrollment in a new school and immediate availability of records
    • Increases federal funding to cover education-related transportation costs for children in foster care
    • Requires states to document in Title IV-E plans that every school-aged child in foster care, receiving adoption assistance, or receiving subsidized guardianship payment is enrolled full-time or has completed secondary school
  • 19. Addressing Children’s Educational Needs
    • 1- How will the decision be made that sufficient steps have been taken to keep a child in his or her current school?
    • 2-What is the court’s role in ensuring the agency meets its responsibilities under these new education provisions?
  • 20. Advocacy at the State Level
    • Legislative champions: Rep. Toni Walker (D-New Haven)
    • Advocacy champions: Connecticut Voices for Children
  • 21.  
  • 22. Next Steps
    • Monitor implementation efforts of Fostering Connections law to provide school stability at state levels
    • Continue public awareness and education efforts
  • 23. Resources
    • ABA Legal Center for Foster Care and Education at:
    • http://www.abanet.org/child/education/
    • Help for Children Raised by Grandparents and Other Relatives: Questions and Answers Educational Stability for Children , Section 6 at:
    • http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research- data-publications/data/new-help-for-children-raised by-grandparents-other-relatives.html
  • 24. Contact Information
    • Karina Jiménez Lewis, MSW
    • Senior Policy Associate
    • Casey Family Services
    • 127 Church Street
    • New Haven, CT 06510
    • Voice: 203.401.6953
    • Mobile: 860.995.6957
    • [email_address]
  • 25. Connecticut Youth Advocates
  • 26.