Let's work together to help children
As a member of the Supreme Court of Texas, it is my great privilege to speak to school children across our state. I love sharing my story and telling them to follow their dreams.
I have noticed over the years the children best equipped to act on this message are those who have developed a sense of belonging in their families, schools and communities. This valuable feeling gives children an appreciation of who they are, where they are going and how to get there. It builds confidence and provides a strong measure of stability and security that is so important in a child’s life. Sadly, this sense of belonging evades many of the children in Texas’ foster-care system.
Texas is home to as many as 30,000 children in foster care. Though these children’s physical needs are met, being a foster child can mean a life filled with disappointments and educational failures that stem primarily from moving from school to school.
Many foster youth change schools so often that community and family relationships are lost, school records disappear and course credits don’t transfer. A significant number decide dropping out is easier than trying to catch up. Some will not graduate from high school; very few will go on to college. For most exiting the system, there will be few stable relationships because they will have moved many times from home to home, school to school and community to community.
Why do so many children in foster care fall through the cracks? The Supreme Court, through the Permanent Commission for Children, Youth and Families, appointed an Education Committee in April 2010, led by District Judge Patricia Macias of El Paso, to examine the problem. This committee has presented its findings in a report, “The Texas Blueprint: Transforming Education Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster Care.”
The blueprint outlines how we can work together in our
communities and schools to achieve better outcomes for the underserved
foster-care population. The commission’s select 14-member Education
Committee and its subcommittees of more than 100 judges, educators, social
workers and others have laid out a path to help foster children achieve a
greater sense of belonging and thus improve their performance in school and
By implementing new strategies, we can give these children a better chance to graduate from high school and even attend college.
My colleagues on the court and I are grateful to leaders across our state who devoted hours to addressing the growing educational needs of Texas foster care children. The report and the subsequent implementation of its findings will provide a framework for action that will help youth exit the system well-equipped for the world.
The Texas Blueprint gives us a unique opportunity to effectively serve the foster-care population. But we need community support. As chairwoman of the Supreme Court Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families, I urge you to join our effort. Volunteer your time and resources. Your role is critical in helping at-risk children develop self-confidence, independence and a sense of belonging.
Eva Guzman is a member of the Texas Supreme Court.
5 May 2012