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September/October 2015Vol. 16, No. 7California's Efforts to Support Academic Success

Children and youth in foster care may need extra supports and services to help them achieve academic success, and many States are working to increase those available supports. Two recent publications highlight efforts in California to improve educational outcomes for this vulnerable population. A publication from Chapin Hall focuses on the State's implementation of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 and the law's provision allowing States to extend foster care services for youth after they reach age 18. California also enacted the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), a comprehensive change in the State's education funding system, which is the focus of a research brief from SRI International and J. Koppich & Associates.

The Chapin Hall paper looks at the perspectives of older youth in foster care in California and caseworkers who work with older youth regarding  youth's educational status, as well as the resources and services available to help these youth achieve academic goals. The paper draws data from the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH), which includes a survey of caseworkers and the baseline interview of a longitudinal study of adolescents transitioning out of foster care. It also examines the educational history and status of older youth in care, the perception of how ready these youth are to pursue their educational goals, and the availability and helpfulness of education-related services.

The study found that discrepancies exist between youth and caseworker assessment of youth's educational preparedness. For example, youth most commonly responded that they felt prepared or very prepared to continue their education, but caseworkers most commonly responded that youth they work with were only somewhat prepared. Both groups agreed that educational supports and services play an important role in helping youth achieve their educational goals, and youth most frequently cited receiving continued educational support as a main reason for staying in foster care. However, less than one-third of caseworkers felt that there was a wide range of education services available to youth in foster care, and only one-quarter of youth felt very satisfied with the services they received. The paper concludes by stating the importance of expanding services and improving coordination between systems in order to help improve youth outcomes. To learn more, read Youth and Caseworker Perspectives on Older Adolescents in California Foster Care: Youths’ Education Status and Services, by Nathanael J. Okpych, Mark E. Courtney, and Pajarita Charles, at (600 KB).

The research brief from SRI International and J. Koppich & Associates is one of a series of reports examining the early implementation of LCFF, which allows school districts to decide how to allocate their funds to best meet students' needs, and it requires districts to submit a fiscal strategic plan, called a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). LCFF also highlights youth in foster care as a subpopulation of students that are underserved and in need of increased attention. Districts' LCAPs must include goals for serving youth in foster care, metrics for measuring progress toward these goals, and specific services and strategies that will be employed to reach youth in care.

The brief found that while there have been challenges to early implementation (e.g., providing an accurate count of youth in care, data-sharing dilemmas, and new roles for county offices of education), districts have also developed specific strategies for providing improved support for youth in care, including:

  • Promoting school stability
  • Increasing counseling services targeted to youth in care
  • Providing tutoring services, often through Federal title I funds
  • Including districts' liaisons for youth in foster care in the development of LCAPs
  • Creating a more positive and inclusive school climate for youth in care
  • Providing school personnel with professional development around foster youth

To read more about early implementation of LCFF, read Foster Youth and Early Implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula: Not Yet Making the Grade, by Daniel C. Humphrey at (513 KB).

Related Item

The Children's Bureau funded several projects aimed at building infrastructure capacity to support collaborative initiatives between child welfare and early childhood systems to maximize enrollment, attendance, and supports of infants and young children who are in foster care into comprehensive, high-quality early care and education programs. Learn about the projects on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at