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June 2005Vol. 6, No. 5Education Advocacy Model for Foster Children

Children in foster care face a number of experiences—including abuse, neglect, separation from family members, and frequent changes of foster homes and schools—that place them at risk for educational difficulties. Yet the educational needs of children in foster care often go unmet. Project Achieve, a model program developed by Advocates for Children (AFC) of New York, has shown promise in ensuring children in, or at risk of, foster care placement receive appropriate educational services. The program is documented in a new report, Project Achieve: A Model Project Providing Education Advocacy for Children in the Child Welfare System.

Conceived as a model for bringing AFC's education expertise and advocacy directly to families and staff members at foster care and preventive services agencies, the program employs three key strategies:

  • Providing individual case assistance and advocacy to all clients of a child welfare agency with unmet education-related needs
  • Enhancing the ability of agency service staff, caseworkers, and supervisors to identify and solve routine school-related issues
  • Empowering and educating parents and young people to navigate the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and other agencies providing educational services

The Project Achieve model was first piloted at Louise Wise Services (LWS), a private preventive services and foster care agency in New York City, from the fall of 2002 to the spring of 2004. During that period, Project Achieve responded to 134 requests for assistance. Preliminary findings include:

  • Impact on students. The project was successful in resolving school-related problems for 89 percent of the students referred for assistance. Problems addressed included special education issues; children at risk for placement because of behavior problems and/or academic failure; issues causing educational disruption, such as problems with enrollment, access to school, transfers, and transportation; and assisting adolescents in making informed educational choices and planning for transition out of foster care and into adulthood.
  • Impact on families. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Project Achieve's assistance with educational issues enhanced family stability, expedited family reunifications, and speeded adoptions.
  • Impact on agency staff. Requests for assistance by LWS staff members decreased over the course of the project, suggesting that Project Achieve increased the capacity of LWS staff to identify and address educational issues.

AFC is currently replicating the model project at two other foster care and preventive services agencies in New York City. The full report can be downloaded at (PDF - 495 KB).

Related Items

Read more about educational supports for children in foster care in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "Promoting a Positive Educational Experience for Children in Foster Care" (October 2004)
  • "Overcoming Educational Barriers for Children in Foster Care" (May 2004)