- Some students in the foster care system in Pennsylvania, as well as other parts of the country, are sometimes placed in institutions or residential facilities that provide substandard education, which is filled with electives instead of rigorous core courses that challenge them and prepare them for the world ahead, according to reporting from The Huffington Post and The Hechinger Report.
- In 2013, data reveals there were roughly 56,000 students nationwide in such educational settings, about 37% below the figure for 2004. Though placement in these settings is falling out of favor, roughly half of the 51,000 children ages 13 or older in foster care in 2015 had spent some time in such institutional environments.
- These systems often fall between government departments and are largely unregulated educationally, even though they tend to cost far more than a traditional public school. As a result, some advocates want better oversight of these institutions so students emerge better prepared for the challenges of college and career.
The number of students in foster care across the country is steadily increasing due, in large part, to the opioid crisis. However, there are other reasons students can end up in foster care. These students change schools at a greater rate than other students, and this mobility often causes them to lose ground academically.
Students in institutional or residential settings outside of traditional public schools often fare worse. A 2014 report on students in foster care in California revealed that “older foster students – particularly those who live in group homes or have experienced three or more foster placements in one school year – have the lowest academic achievement of all foster youth.”
This issue has drawn a closer focus on students in foster care from several quarters. The federal government is relaxing some of its funding policies to help address the issue. In Texas, schools are working closely with government agencies to craft policies that promote academic success in young learners in the foster care system. Seattle is seeing success by hiring education specialists to work with students in foster care, while other schools are trying different approaches. Schools play an important role in helping students in foster care prepare for independent futures and, as the number of students in foster care grow, school leaders need to spend more time finding the answers that work best in their classrooms.