Foster Care Education

Children in foster care represent one of the most vulnerable, academically at risk population in the United States. Education is most important element for all children-children spend most of their day in school and their success in educational ground is one of the most significant determinants of life success (Judith M. Gerber 2006). For children in substitute care, educational well-being is considered to be a most significant aspect of the child’s broader well-being (Courtney, Roderick, Smithgall, Gladden ; Nagaoka, 2004). Studies reveals that students placed in state custody frequently enter foster care educationally behind their peers and have poor learning and other disabilities. The effects of abuse and neglect can multiply a child’s educational disabilities and interfere with the ability to learn. It is widely understood that children living in foster care have considerably lower educational achievement than similarly situated peers. Studies reveals  that 75% of children in foster care are working below grade level, 35% are in special education, 46% do not complete high school (as compared to 16% of non-foster youth), and as few as 15% attend college. Perhaps the single most important factor that negatively impacts education outcomes for any child is the lack of school stability. The typical foster child, however, experiences multiple school placements while also seeking to cope with multiple living situations. They are more likely then other kids to have educational and behavioral problems in their educational institutions. They have greater rates of absenteeism and disciplinary referrals.  3/4th perform below the grade level and more then half have retained at least one year in a single institution. Frequent changes in their places  cause them to change schools as well that case them difficulty in accommodating in new schools and fail in acquiring certain level of academic skill required for the students of his age

83% of children in foster care are held back in school by 3rd grade, 46% do not complete high school and 75% are working below grade level (Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles)

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Children in foster care are more likely to attend a low achieving school than other children (78% vs. 43%) (Courtney, Mark. (2004)

35% of foster youth have experienced four or more school changes and each school move results in a six month loss of educational progress(Molly Herzog, 2004, Temple, J. A., ; Reynolds, A. J. (1999)

Basic reasons that people consider as the instability or low performance of children form foster care are:

instability of educational placement fore instance maintaining students in their school  of origin, lack of educational rights and opportunities  , lack of  advocacy and cross system liaisons , poor quality of educational program.

 “Federal law defines legal guardianship as a judicially-created relationship between child and caregiver intended to be permanent and self-sustaining. The following parental rights with respect to the child are transferred to the caretaker: protection, education, care and control, custody, and decision-making.”

Subsidized legal guardianships are a means by which some states provide relative (and in some states non-relative) foster parents with financial assistance after they have obtained legal guardianship of the child and the child has exited the formal child welfare system. Subsidized guardianships can provide an alternative form of support for children whose relatives have chosen not to adopt. The federal government does not provide States reimbursement for costs associated with subsidized legal guardianship payments.

Child reaches age 18 with no permanent home.  Some children will reach 18 and leave foster care without being reunited with their families, adopted, or placed in another permanent home. In these cases, the child welfare agency may offer basic living skills training, housing assistance, and educational opportunities through federally funded independent living programs.”In 2001, approximately 19,000 youth left foster care when they reached the age of 18 (or 21, in some cases).”Studies have found significantly lower levels of education, higher rates of unemployment, and higher rates of homelessness for adults who spent time in foster care as children. For example, a study by Westat, Inc. reported that only 54 percent of young adults who grew up in foster care had completed high school, 40 percent continued to rely on public support in some way (were receiving public assistance, incarcerated, or receiving Medicaid) and 25 percent had been homeless for some period.”17 Other studies indicate that a significant percentage of the homeless population in many cities were adults who once had been foster children.

As this paper indicates, the rate at which a child progresses through the foster care system, and the nature of his experience there, depends on many factors. These include federal and state financing, timelines, and legal provisions: good and timely decisions; the availability of services for birth and adoptive families; and the accessibility of licensed foster homes eager to care for children. Many of these factors are interrelated. But each can contribute to the length and quality of a child’s time in foster care.

In foster care parents and the children complaints about the lack of focus, or lack of self-discipline as a basis for poor academic performance. Though many of these individuals recognized that these problems might be rooted in larger and more complicated issues in the children’s lives, they struggled with how to confront those larger problems on an everyday basis. Most school staff and foster parents were not counselors and, therefore, perhaps not trained to deal with the larger issues, yet they were the most directly responsible for encouraging children, setting rules, and maintaining discipline. Many foster parents approached this as other parents would, by lecturing children not to be bad. Some school staff members did blame the children, describing them in negative terms such as “manipulative.”

Both foster children and foster parents think that the schools’ lack of understanding of the foster cares system. When children had to miss school for therapy sessions, doctor’s appointments, or court appearances as mandated by the system, both children and parents reported instances of the children not being allowed to make up tests or homework assignments. Improved communication between the two systems could result in the scheduling of court appointments or doctor’s visits at times when they did not coincide with tests or other major school assignments. Or, if that cannot always be avoided, teachers may be instructed by school administration Vera Institute of Justice to be more flexible about allowing students to make up missed work. Our findings suggest that, beyond improved communication, teachers and other school staff could benefit from some basic training on the structure and function of the child welfare system. Additionally, coordination of school transfers could help foster children adjust to a new school environment and curriculum with less disruption one barrier to cooperation is the tendency not to share information about the children across the systems. For reasons of confidentiality, school staff is often not given the complete case backgrounds on the foster children in their schools. In some cases, children are not identified as being in foster care. This may be deliberate, preventing teachers from lowering their expectations or inadvertently revealing the children’s status, but this research suggests that other protections ought to be explored so that teachers can gain access to at least some pertinent details that might help them understand the roots of certain behavioral and academic difficulties.

At the same time, caseworkers should have easier access to the child’s educational record. If a child is in danger of failing courses, caseworkers could be informed without having to rely solely on the foster parents to provide them with report cards and other educational information. Making more adults aware of a child’s academic standing might improve the chances that one of them would intervene to avert failure.


In order to keep the children that have been removed from their homes, from suffering even more, change must be made to the foster care system that is in place now. Nancy Schaefer twice a gubernatorial candidate has been calling for restructuring of the department of family and children services for years, She says “Words cannot describe the travesty of justice suffered by these children who, rather than receiving the protection of the state, gave their lives in a most horrifying and dreadful death because of a failed and specific system of administration. This system of administration that Nancy speaks of has many areas of trouble that can be improved. Starting with the number of home that is provided for foster care. In 1988 125,000 homes were available; in 2001 only 100,000 homes were available. A small step to improving the system would be to increase the number of homes available for foster care. Rather that having 3-4 children per home the number can be lowered allowing for more special attention and less neglect. Another reform that can better the living situation of the foster children would be better case workers and more attention given to the caregivers. If the government paid more attention to the foster care system children’s lives could be salvaged. Confidentiality laws that governments have prevent the public for ever knowing about the abuse and neglect cases.


Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles (a project of the LA Superior Court)

Courtney, Mark. (2004). Educational Experiences of Children in Out of Home Care. Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago.

Molly Herzog, Director of Project People, cited in The Connection: News and Information from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, Summer 2004, Vol. 20 No. 2

Temple, J. A., ; Reynolds, A. J. (1999). School mobility and achievement: Longitudinal results from an urban cohort.  Journal of School Psychology, 37(4), 355-377.

Judith M. Gerber and Sheryl Dicker, Children Adrift: Addressing the Educational Needs of New York’s Foster Children, Albany L.R. 1, 1-5, 2006


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Foster Care Education. (2016, Dec 13). Retrieved from