For decades, the issue of America’s faltering public school education system has evolved into a major problem. The challenge of educating children in foster care is more complex. The phenomenon associated with how children in foster care are educated in the United States requires social scientist and educators to re-evaluate its applications. Foster children represent one of the most academically vulnerable populations in the United States. Research suggests that foster children are at greater risk compared to non-foster children. Children in foster care have higher rates of absenteeism, disciplinary referrals, have significantly below-grade level academic performance, experience higher rates of grade retention, and experience disproportionate rates of social problems (Zetlin, 2006).
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This tragic state of foster children’s education outcomes suggests that educational and foster care systems have either not employed adequate resources to address this situation or have not developed effective intervention strategies geared towards achieving better results. The fact that several generations of foster children have had negative social and educational experiences leading to poor academic outcomes is appalling.
Many efforts and resources have been directed toward negating poor educational outcomes for children in foster care through federal, state and local initiatives. To help ensure successful educational outcomes for children and youth in foster care across the country, 12 organizations joined and formed joined wha the National Working Group on Foster Care and Education. In addition to Child Welfare League of America, the national working group on foster care and education consists of; The ABA Center on Children and the Law, American Public Human Services Association, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs, Child defense Fund, Education Law Center (Pennsylvania), Juvenile Law Center, National CASA, National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, National Foster Parent Association and the Stuart Foundation (NWGFCE, 2010). These organizations have collaboratively addressed worked together to ensure successful educational outcomes across the country from a policy and best practice perspective (NWGFCE, 2010). Additionally, several key Federal and state Legislative mandates have attempted to address problems among children in foster care such as The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, and The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. Despite the laudable goals of educational initiatives and legislative mandates, the educational deficits of foster children are reflected in higher rates of grade retention, lower scores on standardized tests, and higher absenteeism (Christian, 2003). For instance in 2002 only 54% of children in foster care earned a high school diploma
This problem affects thousands of vulnerable children in foster care each year. As a result of the abuse and neglect they have experienced, many of these children face significant challenges, including physical and mental health problems, developmental delays, educational difficulties, and psychological and behavioral problems (Freundlich, 2004). Children in foster placementss often experience a variety of social and emotional problems that stem from their history of being abused or neglected and from the disruption of being placed in foster care. The trauma experienced resulting from abuse and neglect often contributes toward other social and emotional difficulties which if left unattended could result to poor social and academic out comes. On the other hand these problems are not always clearly perceived by foster parents, caseworkers and teachers hence are left unattended. These problems and the transience of their home life in the foster care system can have a powerful impact on their ability to function in school (Ayasse, 1995).
There are many possible factors contributing to the problem, among which are the fact that public agencies generally and child welfare agencies in particular need to coordinate their activities with other human service departments. Child welfare is an especially pressing area for coordination among agencies. In addition to the trauma associated with abuse and child neglect, children and families involved with child welfare agencies often face many other problems, including poverty, mental illness, homelessness, unemployment, and frequent moves. Several different governmental systems provide services to address these difficulties. Yet, like many other government agencies, child welfare departments often operate in isolation from other social service providers (Ross, 2002).
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