In California, foster students are absent at a higher rate than any other group despite the state directing additional funding at the issue, with California Department of Education data for the 2017-18 school year showing more than a quarter of the state’s 34,500 foster students missing at least 10% of the school year, EdSource reports.
Advocates for foster children say moves between multiple foster homes and frequent school changes are the main reasons for the absences, alongside lack of understanding around mental health issues and enrollment policies, and lack of communication between districts and social workers.
Transportation issues also play a key role, with one expert noting that while the Every Student Succeeds Act required districts and child welfare agencies to provide students with transit to their school of origin, it failed to detail how those costs would be shared between districts and counties. Some foster parents report paying out-of-pocket for ride share services to transport their children, sans reimbursements.
California was the first state to add funding for foster students’ needs some six years ago, but absenteeism among this group continues to be a factor. And they face difficulties beyond just poor attendance.
The Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD), which has the highest number of foster students in the country, announced earlier this year it would begin reporting the number of foster students in the district in addition to documenting how often those students change schools and their academic, social and emotional condition. Superintendent Austin Beutner will also develop pathways for foster students to segue into higher education through partnerships with colleges and other institutions.
Foster students in Pennsylvania and elsewhere can be placed in institutional environments where educational options are limited or lack rigorous core course options. Though expensive, these options are often unregulated. Some advocates for foster children are seeking better regulations of these facilities so more students can emerge from the programs ready to tackle college or other post-high school education options.
And near St. Louis, the Jennings School District established “Hope House,” which can accommodate up to 14 foster students. Students in this 3,000-square-foot home are managed by a foster counselor, and the effort has seen students' test scores increase. Other districts are employing wraparound strategies that include mental health intervention teams, partnerships with local organizations, increased professional development and extra funding to track students' progress.