Child Welfare Ideas from the Experts #1: Getting Tough on Educational Stability

Joshua Christian, 21, a student at Marian University in Indiana. Photo by Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute

The Chronicle of Social Change is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI), a group of 12 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.

The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the FYI participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C.

Today we highlight the recommendation of Joshua Christian, 21, a student at Marian University in Indiana.

The Proposal

Christian would make several changes to sharpen the obligations of states to take educational stability seriously when it comes to foster youth.

Two of his moves pertain to state funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which passed in 2015 and requires, among other things, that schools and child welfare agencies work together to transport foster youths to their school of origin if they wish. Christian would increase spending on monitoring of that rule by the Department of Education, and he would have Congress require more data collection about educational outcomes of foster youths.

He also recommends that Congress require educators to be trained on trauma, and would add a new requirement under the recently-passed Family First Prevention Services Act – that all congregate care providers accredited as Qualified Residential Treatment Programs have an “educational requirement” in their model.

The Argument

Christian argues that the Congress has expressed an awareness of the academic challenges unique to kids in foster care, and has legislated requirements for states to address them – but “these requirements have not been widely or effectively implemented.”

Meanwhile, he notes, an effort by the Obama administration to add more annually collected data about the academic lives of foster youth was rescinded this year.

In Their Own Words

Boundless Futures, the most recent set of policy proposals from the Foster Youth Internship Program

“During my 18 years in foster care I experienced 18 different placements, and with each new placement, a different school. Although I entered foster care through no fault of my own, these frequent placement changes created challenges in many areas of my life, including my education, mental health and well-being, and social stability.”

The Chronicle’s Take

A few states have clearly started to take the “school of origin” transportation plans seriously, but our own research on the matter suggests that Christian is right to ask for more scrutiny on states to ensure they have a plan.

As noted, the Trump administration scrapped the Obama plan to collect some academic information through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). We like Christian’s thought on a new approach: make the Department of Education track it. That would require quite a level of data sharing between schools and child welfare systems, but we believe that was made possible by the Uninterrupted Scholars Act in 2015. And hopefully, the gradual shift away from antiquated case management systems by state and local child welfare agencies will give way to some more modular systems that allow someoneto track the academic progress of foster youths.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at