• June 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 6

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Site Visit: Cincinnati's Kids in School Rule!

Using a 17-month Children's Bureau (CB) grant, an existing partnership between Cincinnati Public Schools, the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services (JFS), and the juvenile court has been enhanced to increase school stability for students involved with child welfare or under court-ordered protective supervision. This infrastructure-building grant is part of CB's Child Welfare - Education System Collaborations to Increase Educational Stability grant cluster. The collaboration, Kids in School Rule! (KISR!), is focused on improving educational outcomes by increasing school stability, improving direct communication about students, and reducing disruptions and removals from school.

KISR! is a partnership among Cincinnati Public Schools, JFS, Hamilton County Juvenile Court, and the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati (LAS). The project actually began in 2008, prior to the grant being awarded. Before the project began, a lack of communication and collaboration between school personnel and JFS staff affected the educational stability of students served. School personnel were confused about whom to contact concerning children's educational issues and voiced concern about the number of absences of children in foster care. In addition, the child welfare agency experienced barriers enrolling their students in Cincinnati Public Schools, and caseworkers did not have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the school district to resolve common educational issues. KISR!'s primary goal was to build the infrastructure for an intensive cross-systems collaboration to improve educational outcomes. 

To help meet project goals, two education specialists assist JFS case managers with education-related issues and serve as the point of contact regarding student participants. In addition, each Cincinnati school has a KISR! liaison to support students. To ensure the educational needs of children are met, magistrates in Hamilton County Juvenile Court review educational information about each KISR! child in foster care or under court-ordered protective supervision.

In 2008, 22 Cincinnati Public Schools participated in KISR!, which served only children in the custody of JFS. The CB grant was awarded in January 2012, and the project expanded to the 56 schools within the district. In August 2012, the project began serving children under court-ordered protective supervision of JFS if the parents signed consent for the service to continue. KISR! has served 706 students since 2008. As of January 2013, the project is serving 181 students; 167 (92 percent) of the students are in the custody of JFS, and 14 (8 percent) of the students are under the protective supervision of JFS. The population of youth served who are in protective supervision were part of the KISR! project when they were in agency custody.

Evaluation activities continue and some positive outcomes have already been realized, including: 

  • A set of key data indicators and an expanded Cincinnati Public Schools' Learning Partner Dashboard that shares specific data about KISR! students and generates reports to inform the project
  • An operations manual, an education specialist manual, and a KISR! liaison handbook to describe procedures that apply to KISR! students and the roles and responsibilities of the specialized positions
  • An enrollment protocol to ensure KISR! students do not miss instruction time
  • A trauma-informed consultation program
  • Automatic school fee waivers for students in KISR!

The project recently received the first data reports from Learning Partner Dashboard, which provided powerful documentation for the need to take action to stabilize students. In addition, project data shows that KISR! students rarely miss school for counseling or family visitations.

For more information about this project, contact Elaine Fink, KISR! Project Manager, efink@lascinti.org. The full site visit report is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:
Kids in School Rule! project is funded by the Children's Bureau (Award 90CO1077). This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.

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