Friday, October 8, 2010

Teach the Children Well

Children and youth in foster care are, unfortunately, a highly mobile population. Their movement from placement to placement is typically mirrored by movement from school to school, with records lagging behind them and academic achievement stunted at every step. The end up at high risk for school discipline, dropping out, juvenile and criminal justice involvement, homelessness, and other grim outcomes.  Current research reveals that a large proportion of young people in foster care are in educational crises. States clearly need to do more.

Last week was the kick-off meeting of the Education Committee of our Supreme Court Children's Commission, the Permanent Judicial Committee for Children, Youth and Families. Created by order of the Supreme Court, the committee is chaired by Judge Patricia Macias of El Paso, has great representation from the Texas judiciary, education world, and child welfare world, has support from the ABA Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, and a charge to do the following (among several mandates):
  • Identify and assess challenges to educational success of children and youth in the Texas foster care system;
  • Identify and recommend judicial practices to help achieve better educational outcomes for children and youth in foster care; [and]
  • Seek to improve collaboration, communication, and court practice through partnerships with the Department of Family and Protective Services, the Texas education system, and stakeholders in the education and child-protection community.
The committee reached consensus to focus on the following nine goals:
  1. Children and youth in care are entitled to remain in the same school when feasible.
  2. Children and youth in care are guaranteed seamless transitions between schools.
  3. Young children in care (0-5 years) receive services and interventions to be ready to learn.
  4. Children and youth in care have the opportunity and support to fully participate in all developmentally appropriate activities and all aspects of the education experience.
  5. Children and youth in care have supports to prevent school dropout, truancy, and disciplinary actions and re-engage in the education experience.
  6. Children and youth in care are involved and empowered in all aspects of their education.
  7. Youth in care are prepared to self advocate in all aspects of their education.
  8. Children and youth in care have consistent adult support to advocate for and make education decisions. 
  9. Children and youth in care have support to enter into and complete post-secondary education.
 These goals will look familiar to anyone with background in this area and exposure to the Center's Blueprint for Change, a remarkable report that I commend to your attention.  I hope to report more on this compelling topic, as it develops.

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