Indiana working to improve educational opportunities for foster children
Indiana is working to boost the educational success of students in foster care with a new program that focuses case managers, family members and others on the issue.
The Indiana Department of Child Services announced last week that it will base the new program — called FosterEd: Indiana — on a private, pilot program in use now in Marion County. Both efforts are part of a national initiative.
In Indiana, the Department of Child Services will spend about $900,000 to implement the new system, which includes money to hire 16 regional education specialists and a statewide manager. They will serve on case management teams for the state's foster children and work with teachers, school administrators, foster parents, biological parents, relatives who serve as caregivers and others to identify educational strengths and ensure educational needs are met.
Every foster child will also have an education case plan.
"It is important for us to support these children who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves removed from everything they know," said DCS Director James Payne in a statement. "By making education a priority for these children, and providing access to the educational opportunities they need, they will have a better chance to achieve their goals and dreams."
Foster children — many of whom have been abused or neglected — are frequently bounced from school to school and often lack an adult supporting their educational success, state officials said.
DCS officials said that nationally:
75 percent of foster children are behind at least one grade level.
Foster children are twice as likely to drop out of school as their peers.
Only 1.8 percent of former foster children get a college degree, compared to 24 percent of the general population.
FosterEd: Indiana will ensure that foster children need tutoring or other specialized help to turn around those statistics, said Stephanie McFarland, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Child Services.
Under the pilot program in Marion County, foster families have been able to request assistance and about 95 percent of the families seeking help have received some support services.
"In establishing this statewide program, Indiana has made an important commitment to Indiana's foster children," said Jesse Hahnel, director of the national FosterEd Initiative. "Foster children experience tragically poor educational outcomes, even compared to other disadvantaged youth. This program will ensure every foster child has an educational champion and a plan for educational success."
FosterEd, launched in 2009, is a fledgling initiative of the National Center for Youth Law and also is in use in California. The Mind Trust, a nonprofit driving innovative K-12 education reform in Indianapolis, provided funding and support to bring the program to Marion County.
19 May 2012