Foster Youth’s Achievement & Opportunity Gap Kimberly Snodgrass, R&P
Population: Foster Youth On September 30, 2008? 463,000 children were in publicly supported foster care in the United States. This is actually a decline since 2000. While the gender distribution was virtually equal, the largest share of children in care were ages 11-15 (29%) This is very important to consider when looking into the achievement gaps they have in high school.
Background While authors agree that parenting practices and involvement are critical for student success, what happens to youth that do not have parents? Jarret (1999) states that all parents want their children to grow up to be successful young people/adults, but it is hard when Af/Am (and all) families grow up on the “streets” (inner city, low income, and more). Given these circumstances, they must try even harder than their counterparts growing up in different types of neighborhoods and communities—As advocates only hope for resiliency to arise.
Only 20% of those who graduate from high school actually enroll in a higher education institution.
Only 26% of that 20% go on to earn a degree. This translates into a 1-2% completion rate of a college degree!
It is going to take a collaborative effort to dent what the “system” has created for our damaged and at risk youth.
Achievement Problem 50% of foster youth do NOT graduate high school. Foster youth experience social and emotional problems due to their histories, this creates a negative impact on their abilities to learn. Estimated 60% are performing at grade level, in comparison to the 80% of all schoolchildren (White, et. al). 1/3 of the “aged out” youth become homeless Many youth are not accounted for services due to reunification, or running away.
Race/ethnicity of the children in foster care (2006) Asian 1% 2,631 Alaska Native/American Indian 2% 8,802 Black 31% 142,502 Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 0% 877 Hispanic (of any race) 20% 92,464 White 40% 183,149 Unknown/Unable to Determine 2% 10,753 Two or more races 5% 21,822
Problem: Disproportional Insight African American and Native American (Indian/Alaskan Native) children are overrepresented in foster care when compared to their representation in the total U.S. child population. African American children constitute 15% of the U.S. child population, but 41% of the foster care population. Native American children make up 1% of the U.S. population, but comprise 2% of the foster care population.
Problem: Double Minority Conflict Statistics indicate that every 7 seconds of the school day an African-American student is suspended from public school. Every 49 seconds of the school day an African-American student drops out of school (Ford, Obiakor, & Patton, 1995). On top of this, 41% of the African-American youth population are in foster care. The weight they carry into the classroom is heavy, and often times unacknowledged.
Problem: Performance Dip For foster children, there is a performance dip as they transition from home to new home, meaning, they also transition from school to new school. “The year of change, also predicts lower test scores and social disruption” (Ferguson, 2010) The problem is too much movement, which can affect permanent school success (Balfanz et. al, 2007)
Strategies for Families and Schools to Close the Achievement & Opportunity Gap Early learning, as it is the first and most critical stage in human development.- U.S. Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan Because the gaps start early, investing in young children is an investment in future productivity –Economist, James Heckman, 2008 Low-income children who attend high-quality preschool programs are 30 % more likely to graduate from high school and twice as likely to go to college, research shows. –R. Shore, 2010 Provide ALL children an opportunity to succeed with a wide variety of options and diversity considerations.
Family Supports The family plays a big role, and policy should invest in early years—(prevention) Active encouragement of parents/foster parents’ high expectations for their children's achievement. Involvement in their children's schooling, participation in homework completion, and commitment to help them meet performance standards. School can link families with local social services; providing students with mentors, tutors, and role models; providing parents with adult basic skills education, job training, and parenting classes.
Schools (Schwartz, 2001) Need: In-depth, appropriate, and ongoing assessments of the performance and progress of each student holistically including: family circumstances (trauma, foster care, single family homes, poverty, death, resources, etc.), grades, test scores, classroom behavior, and extracurricular activities, --to determine class and program placement and the types of individual supports that should be given. Serious, professional development and supports are needed from school faculty (AGI Report).
Advocacy Environment: Programs that target the early years seem to have the greatest promise. I.E.: The Nurse Family Partnership Program (Olds, 2002), the Abecedarian Program Perry Program have been evaluated and show high returns. The goal is to create a base of productive skills and traits for disadvantaged children living in culturally diverse settings. J. Heckman, 2008 Programs should respect cultural diversity when going into the home---This is KEY! Synthesizing readings: Programs, schools, and community partnerships need to create a “safe space” for identity, social learning, mentoring, and leadership
Connection Q: How can we implement programs and early interventions so effectively to reduce foster care rates? – We need true prevention. Q: How do we provide a common language and create consistency for all ecological systems that directly or indirectly involves a foster youth? Q: If you were in charge, what would be your priority when investing in our children facing high risks?