As the legal “parent” of foster youth, the State is responsible for the safety, stability, and well-being of children in its care and therefore must ensure the academic success and positive educational outcomes for students in foster care.
Yet, students in foster care historically have not succeeded educationally along with their peers. Students in foster care are a unique population, in some ways similar, but in many ways distinct from their peers, even other vulnerable students, such as low-income students, and students receiving special education. California’s students in foster care are:
- More likely to be enrolled in the lowest-performing schools.
- Had the lowest participation in statewide testing.
- Scored much lower on standardized tests.
- Had the highest dropout rate and lowest graduation rate.
- Far more likely to change schools during the year (West Ed. (2013). The Invisible Achievement Gap. www.stuartfoundation.org)
Multiple traumatic experiences, residential and school changes, and a lack of an engaged educational champion who has followed their progress throughout their lifespan are just some of the common challenges that foster youth face. Successful programs and services will address the individual needs of students in foster care while also building on their strengths and resilience to improve their outcomes.
Currently, there are only three staff people dedicated to serving the 8,000-plus students in foster care in LAUSD, and that is woefully inadequate. Since we know that foster youth tend to be located in certain geographic areas, we now have the school-level data, which was previously unavailable, to indicate that targeting resources and preventive services to schools with high numbers of foster youth would have a huge impact in the lives of foster youth in LAUSD.