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Dec/Jan 2008Vol. 8, No. 11Improving Collaboration Between Child Welfare and Education Systems

Systemic factors in the child welfare and education systems and a lack of communication and trust between the two systems may affect the academic success of children and youth in the child welfare system. A new study published in the Journal of Public Child Welfare used interviews with child welfare and education stakeholders and foster parents in nine California counties to explore attributes of the two systems that affect foster children's academic performance. The study also sought to identify differences in workers' perceptions regarding the educational issues foster children face and the role of each system in addressing these issues.

According to the results, three major factors affect foster children's performance in school:

  • Placement instability within the child welfare system: Multiple placements disrupt the continuity of education services and take an emotional toll that may affect the child's performance.
  • Limited financial resources of schools: Schools are often unable to create an individualized education plan (IEP) in a timely manner and to provide appropriate services.
  • Poor interagency communication: Issues include mistrust of actions and motives, misunderstanding of each other's systems, and poor coordination of services.

Based on the results of the study, the authors made the following recommendations to improve the experiences of foster children in the child welfare and education systems:

  • Reduce the number of placements and keep the child in the same neighborhood to improve the continuity of education services.
  • Track and monitor the child's educational needs and make the child's records more accessible.
  • Encourage the involvement of someone like a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) to act as a consistent educational advocate for the child.
  • Cross-train child welfare and education workers to understand both systems, including issues like the special education process and the unique needs of foster children.

"Educational Services for Children in Foster Care: Common and Contrasting Perspectives of Child Welfare and Education Stakeholders," by Susan Stone, Amy D'Andrade, and Michael Austin, is available in the Journal of Public Child Welfare, 1(2), 2007: