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February 2009Vol. 10, No. 1Connecting to Improve Education for Children in Foster Care

A California collaboration among representatives of the child welfare and public education fields as well as former foster youth, policymakers, legal system representatives, researchers, health-care providers, and advocates has produced a report identifying ways to reverse systemic failings in education that create an achievement gap for foster care students. The report includes recommendations and implementation strategies to connect agencies, groups, or individuals that might not otherwise come together to help the State's 74,000 children and youth in foster care.

The Stuart Foundation convened the California Education Collaborative for Children in Foster Care (the Collaborative) specifically to identify and address ways that the child welfare, education, and court systems could partner to improve educational outcomes for foster care students. To facilitate their research and planning, members of the Collaborative formed workgroups that focused on three areas of need: school readiness, school success, and data sharing across agencies and systems.

The resulting report, compiled over several years, draws from a number of products, projects, and events conducted by the Collaborative, including:

  • A review and critique of relevant research literature, including evidence-based school interventions that might reduce educational problems
  • Focus group discussions with educators exploring specific barriers, information gaps, and ways the fields of education and child welfare can work together
  • A survey of teachers regarding their experiences with foster youth in their classrooms
  • Regional meetings with public education and child welfare players at the county level

The report's recommendations reflect the workgroup structure of the Collaborative.

  • School readiness recommendations focus on such areas as training for parents, professional development, early intervention, and education rights.
  • School success recommendations focus on such areas as school stability, interventions, and supports for students and teachers.
  • Recommendations around data sharing focus on the issues of technologically feasible ways to share information while safeguarding privacy. The report notes that State funding has allowed several counties to establish secure databases that permit authorized agencies to access crucial placement, health, and educational records for children in foster care.

A final section of the report offers implementation strategies for introducing many of these systemic changes in a time of financial constraints.

Ready to Succeed: Changing Systems to Give California's Foster Children the Opportunities They Deserve to Be Ready for and Succeed in School is available on The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning website: (1,935 KB)