Chronic Absenteeism for Foster Youth in California Rises for the Third Year in a Row

California Department of Education data showed that 28 percent of all school-age California foster youth were chronically absent in the 2018-2019 school year. Photo: stock

Newly released California Department of Education data found that the rate of chronic absenteeism for California students in foster care rose for the third year in a row.

During the 2018-2019 school year, 28 percent of all foster youth in the state were chronically absent – which refers to a student missing school for any reason for more than 10 percent of the days they were enrolled in a school. By comparison, 12 percent of all students across the state were chronically absent during that same timeframe. 

According to 2016-2017 school year data, 25 percent of all California foster youth were chronically absent, and in 2017-2018, that number had risen to 26 percent.

The high rate of unexcused absences likely contributes to another alarming statistic from the report: Foster youth were suspended five times as often as students in the general population last year. The suspension rate for foster youth in California was 15 percent compared with 3 percent for all students overall. The suspension rate was tabulated by including the percentage of all students who had been suspended at least once during the school year, whether that was an in-school or out-of-school suspension.

The department releases data each year on foster youth outcomes, including absenteeism and suspension rates. Other key data points in the 2018-2019 data for California foster students:

  • 56 percent of California foster youth graduated with their four-year high school cohort, compared with 85 percent of their peers across the state.
  • 24 percent of foster students met state English language arts standards; 51 percent was the statewide total for non-foster youth population.
  • 15 percent of foster youth students met mathematics standards, while 41 percent of non-foster students achieved that mark.

While we know that youth in foster care are incredibly capable and resilient, they are often faced with trauma and school instability that severely impair their ability to succeed without targeted support and interventions that address their unique education rights, circumstances and needs,” said Alaina Moonves Leb, senior staff attorney at the Alliance for Children’s Rights, in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change.

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Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change
About Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change 352 Articles
Jeremy is a West Coast-based senior editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at jeremyloudenback@chronicleofsocialchange.org.