Children living in foster care face a broad range of unique challenges. As a result of being estranged from their biological parents for an undesignated amount of time, both their emotional and physical stability is disrupted. There are a number of repercussions associated with this lack of stability. One of the observed consequences of foster care is lower performance in an educational setting.
According to a report published by the National Conference of State Legislatures in 2008, children placed in foster care are more likely than their peers not in foster care to have higher rates of school transfer, school absence or tardiness, suspension. They also reportedly exhibit lower academic performance and are not as likely to graduate high school or go on to college.
The stark differences witnessed between foster children and those not in foster care called for immediate policy attention and collaboration. Fortunately, this need was recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Children’s Bureau of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families. In November of 2011 the two entities met to discuss how a collaboration between them could improve educational outcomes for children in foster care.
Part of the meeting entailed a comprehensive discussion on the implementation of the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act and how it will improve educational outcomes for foster children. According to the Department of Education, “the law requires that State child welfare agencies include action in case plans that will increase educational stability for children in foster care.” One way they imagined minimizing instability for foster children and enhancing their educational outcomes was by ensuring children remain in their original school throughout their placement. A full summary of the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act provided by the Children’s Defense Fund is available here.
While the partnership established by the Department of Education and Children’s Bureau of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families on the federal level is extremely important, in order to ensure a level of stability for children in foster care, collaboration must exist at all levels. Most notably, this includes ensuring guidance counselors and school administrators are aware of their students’ living situations so that they can offer them the tools they need to thrive in a school setting amidst the disruption of their home lives. Through the integration of electronic files, necessary personnel would be able to receive automatic notifications about a change in a student’s custodial status and reach out to him or her before there is cause for concern.
Annabelle Eliashiv is a graduate student at NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service committed to engaging readers in children's issues and advocating for their wellbeing.