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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.

Foster Care Students Need Improved Educational Opportunities

With quality tutoring, students in foster care have a better chance of succeeding in school.

With more than 500,000 children living in foster care in this country, the need to focus on educational opportunities has never been greater. In addition to increased risks for incarceration, pregnancy, and homelessness, students aging out of the foster care system have a lower chance of gainful employment because of their poor education. Basic reading and math education is required for most entry-level jobs. Unfortunately, as a result of the multiple disruptions to their education, foster care students often do not have the skills needed to achieve positive life outcomes.

Better educational opportunities are needed for several reasons. Foster care students who do well academically have a greater chance of graduating from high school. It is challenging for teachers to focus on the unique needs of these students in the classroom. Fortunately, there are additional ways for foster care students to get the educational skills needed to succeed in life. Intensive tutoring is one of the most effective ways to help students in foster care maintain academic skills as they progress through the foster care system and enter adulthood.

County foster care agencies can partner with organizations like Educational Tutorial Services to ensure children in their care receive additional learning assistance. Students who participate in intensive tutoring programs are better able to meet achievement goals comparable to their peers. Without this type of assistance, students in foster care tend to lag behind several grade levels. Ultimately, this will impact their ability to be productive adults.

Tutoring that provides more than homework assistance can help foster care students prepare for the transition to independent living. Students can learn to be more disciplined and conscientious about the quality of their school work as well as turning assignments in on time. Tutors often serve a quasi-mentor role to students which can prove powerful when they are in foster care. Students thrive on positive feedback and encouragement tutors provide inherently.

As schools continue to struggle with funding issues, students in foster care can still get the support they need with the right tutoring program. Programs designed specifically for these students offer the most benefits. Not only do students in foster care get the assistance they need, but society gets a better citizen in the process which is, after all, a primary goal of our country’s education system.