Thanks to a $10 million philanthropic donation, the University of California, Los Angeles will establish a new research center dedicated to addressing the complex needs of children in foster care, particularly related to the educational system.
The Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families aims to be a hub of collaborative research with the goal of strengthening vulnerable families and helping to prevent many children in Los Angeles County from entering the foster care system.
Created with a gift from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation, the center will help organize researchers from across several different academic disciplines at UCLA and bolster research, prevention and intervention efforts in Los Angeles County.
The Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families also hopes to be a resource for foster parents, relative caregivers and adoptive families through trauma-informed training that can help support the academic achievement of foster youth, according to the center’s new director, Tyrone Howard.
Howard is a professor of education at UCLA and the director and founder of the university’s Black Male Institute. He has long examined racial disparities in California’s education system, including a recent report that found that black male students who are foster youth were suspended at a rate of 27.4 percent across California, the highest rate among all the subgroups studied.
Howard is hoping that the new center will shine a light on racial disparities in Los Angeles County’s foster care system, particularly among African Americans. Black youth make up about 7 percent of the county’s child population but represent between 30 and 35 percent of the young people who are in county foster care, according to Howard.
“We have to start asking questions about this and engage in research to begin to understand why that population is so grossly, disproportionately represented when it comes to foster care,” Howard said.
Howard sees the educational system as the ideal place to build collaboration and develop interventions for vulnerable children and families, especially those in foster care.
He calls schools an “important anchor point” for the work of the center at its outset.
“That’s the place where children, caregivers, parents and the like are engaged on a consistent basis, something like 180 days of the year,” Howard said. “If that’s where the population is, that’s where we need to go to engage in intervention and prevention and use research and best practices in those spaces.”