Children involved in the child welfare system are at risk of not graduating due to: school mobility, being academically behind, lack of attention to the child’s education by an adult, and not having special education needs met. Only 40% of youth in foster care graduate from high school. Only 3% of youth in foster care complete post-secondary schooling or college. Kids Central’s Education Program provides a collaborative approach for foster children in Circuit 5 (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties) to identify unmet needs affecting school performance. Two Educational Liaisons manage all aspects of the collaborative team around the child’s academic success. Further collaboration exists within the Circuit 5 judiciary system, as academic performance is reported to the court during routinely scheduled court hearings, as well as status hearings when significant academic changes for students occur.
A data exchange system and policies and procedures for professionals and caretakers have been developed to further increase awareness and identify areas of focus needed by all. Ongoing training is being provided to schools, child welfare professionals, caregivers, biological parents, foster parents, and judiciary professionals. Through data exchange and intensive collaboration, professionals and caretakers become knowledgeable and connected to all academic, medical and mental health service provisions to drive the students’ academic success.
The Educational Liaisons work diligently to advocate for almost 700 school-aged children in Circuit 5. Kids Central’s multi-faceted solution to improving educational outcomes for youth in foster care includes:
- Creation of specific policies, procedures and protocols to promote cross-system collaboration that addresses barriers to confidentiality and ensures that appropriate services are provided to students in foster care;
- Implementation of an automated, web-based data ex- traction and reporting system to facilitate information sharing;
- Collocation of educational facilitators in the targeted school districts;
- Designation of a point person from each school to serve as the primary contact and advocate for students in foster care;
- Provision of comprehensive training and education to stakeholders;
- Improved coordination and provision of necessary educational and support services to children and families; and
- Enhanced engagement and involvement of parents and caregivers in the educational process.