Education Pitfalls of the Foster Care System

Tutoring can help address education gaps for students in foster care.

The U.S. foster care system is designed to protect the general welfare of our children.  And it does a pretty good job making sure kids who are removed from their parents are placed in safe homes, receive clothing, and eat regularly. Other aspects of a child’s well-being often become secondary as children are unable to safely return home and experience multiple out-of-home placements.  The interruption of a child’s education when placed in foster care comes with a high price.

In “The Fleecing of Foster Children,” the Children’s Advocacy Institute and its partners details the educational outcomes of children in our foster care system.  Children removed from their homes often become immediately disadvantaged because their education is interrupted.  It can be challenging to find a foster placement in the same school district the child currently attends.  In addition, the removal from their parents care is traumatic.  Children take time to adapt to new schools and foster environments.

The picture is even starker for children who live in more than one foster care placement.  They soon lag several grade levels behind their peers.  Public school systems are already over-burdened and simply do not have the resources to pay special attention to these children.  It is not uncommon for them to completely fall off the radar of teachers.

Less than 3% of foster children actually earn a college degree. Not even half will be employed by the time they are 24 years old.  All of these factors combined mean that adults who were in foster care as youth have disproportionately higher levels of unemployment, arrest, and suicide.  Incredibly, more than one-third of this population will be homeless at some point, often when they age out of the foster care system.

Because education is the foundation of a financially secure future, many state and private foster care agencies are placing more emphasis on the education of children in their care.  To this end, they hire case workers and school liaisons to make sure children are attending school and are being assessed to determine current achievement levels.  Private tutoring services are secured to help close the gap in their learning with the goal of bringing foster care children up to par with their peers.  This is the best way to insure foster children have a fighting chance after graduating from high school.