• September/October 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 7

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Improving Educational Outcomes: Federal, State, and Local Efforts

A new school year is beginning, and with it come new opportunities for children and youth to learn, grow, and work toward a bright future. Each year also brings new opportunities for child welfare professionals to work toward ensuring that all children who come to the attention of child welfare have access to the supports and services they need to achieve success. Laying the groundwork for academic success must begin early. Services such as those stipulated in the Part C referral provisions of the 2003 reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) support the educational stability of children receiving child welfare services by meeting special needs that may exist before they enter school.

There is significant overlap in the population of young children with substantiated abuse or neglect and those who experience developmental delays. Research shows that children who are abused or neglected often experience physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social problems.1 Part C recognizes this through provisions for early intervention and requirements for States to refer victims of abuse and neglect up to age 3 for developmental assessments. IDEA 2004 also details specific requirements for State early intervention programs (EIPs), which are administered by lead agencies in each State (including departments of health, developmental disability, social services, children and families, or education). For more information about Part C and early intervention services, including how child welfare and early intervention intersect, an overview of Part C, the benefits of Part C for child welfare, and how child welfare professionals can support Part C efforts, read Child Welfare Information Gateway's bulletin Addressing the Needs of Young Children in Child Welfare: Part C—Early Intervention Services at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/partc/.

Child welfare workers can help ensure that the developmental needs of children who are abused and neglected are addressed by referring children to EIPs and working closely with EIP staff. It is also important for child welfare and EIP staff to partner with education, Early Head Start/Head Start, health and mental health, and other agencies and services to ensure that vital information is shared and all avenues for helping children reach their full potential are explored. An example of collaboration among systems to improve children's outcomes can be seen in the efforts of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), the Pittsburgh Public School (PPS) District, and the Allegheny County Family Court. Using a 17-month Children's Bureau grant, these agencies continued their work to improve educational stability and permanency outcomes for children served by all three systems.

The project, built on an existing data-sharing partnership between DHS and PPS, began in 2009 and has helped improve collaboration and information access among the school, social services, and the courts. Improved information access allows school personnel to understand circumstances outside of the school that may influence school performance and behavior, such as issues related to trauma histories. In addition, it allows child welfare caseworkers to more closely follow the academic performance of children on their caseloads and to address issues more expeditiously. To read more about the project, including challenges, lessons learned, and outcomes, read Information Gateway's Site Visit Report: Improving Educational Well-Being Outcomes of Children at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/allegheny.pdf (301 KB). For more information on programs funded by Children's Bureau discretionary grants that support collaborative initiatives between State, local, or Tribal child welfare agencies and education systems to improve educational stability and permanency outcomes for youth, visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/management/funding/funding-sources/federal-funding/cb-funding/cbreports/edcollaborations/.

Providing early services and intervention to support the healthy development of young children can have positive effects that last throughout childhood and into adulthood.2 Partnering with child-serving systems, agencies, and other stakeholders can ensure children receive quality, comprehensive, and coordinated services that address their special needs and help create a stable foundation so that children enter school ready to learn and achieve their life goals.

1 Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2009). Understanding the effects of maltreatment on brain development. Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/issue-briefs/brain-development/
2 Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2010). The foundations of lifelong health are built in early childhood. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/reports_and_working_papers/foundations-of-lifelong-health/

 

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