This is a guest blog by Kristin Kelly, JD, a senior staff attorney at the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law. At the Center, Kristin works primarily in the areas of youth transitioning from foster care, youth empowerment, and the educational needs of children in foster care. She is also a staff member of the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, a national technical assistance and training resource and clearinghouse on the educational needs of children in foster care.
There is overwhelming evidence that many children and youth in foster care are particularly vulnerable to school failure in our public education system. The achievement gap between youth in foster care and the general student population is staggering, with youth in foster care trailing their peers in many areas, including academic performance, high school graduation rates, and likelihood of attaining postsecondary education.
There is increasing recognition of the need for system-level collaboration between the state’s child welfare agency, education agency, and the courts to ensure better educational outcomes for children and youth in foster care. From enactment of federal law to implementation of local promising programs and practices, change is happening.
The Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, the facilitator of the National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, is helping to raise awareness, share best practices, and support change. The Legal Center ensures a strong voice at the national level for the education of children in foster care, maintaining an updated central clearinghouse of laws, fact sheets, and other tools for practitioners, and providing training and technical assistance across the country.
Sharing data between state child welfare and education agencies has been an important building block of this work. When poor education outcomes for children in foster care are brought to light, collaborations are formed and all stakeholders are motivated to make change. When new strategies and interventions are put in place, data sharing can showcase progress and improvements in education outcomes. A new fact sheet released by the Data Quality Campaign and the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education highlights states’ efforts to securely sharelimited, critical information between K–12 and child welfare sectors about how students in foster care fare in education, so that these agencies can work together more effectively to best support these students.
No one system alone can improve the lives of children in foster care. Only by working together can education and child welfare agencies reach the common goal both have—the education success for all children in foster care.