Why Foster Kids Need Educational Advocates

Take a moment and reflect on your own K-12 school experience:

  1. What enabled you to succeed in school?

  2. Did you ever have to move from one school to another? How did it feel to be the “new kid”?

  3. Did you ever have someone at home who helped you with your homework, attended parent-teacher conferences?

Now picture yourself as a student who is in foster care. On average you miss 25 days of school per year and have a 50% chance of completing high school by age 18, compared to 70% of the general population. Youth in out-of-home care average 1-2 home placement changes per year, which can cause students to change schools anytime in the year. For each school move, students average a 4-6 month loss in emotional and academic growth. Just by these few statistics, you can see how foster kids are often at a disadvantage when it comes to academics and we want to help change that!

Source: Fact Sheet by National Working Group on Foster Care and Education and Casey Family Programs

WI Laws

There are laws in Wisconsin in place to help students in out-of-home placements. The Wisconsin New Foster Forward Legislation requires schools/school districts to be informed when a child at their school is placed in out-of-home care or when a foster home is licensed. The notice will also include information for the case worker assigned to the family. Before this was passed, schools were not allowed to be informed because of confidentiality purposes. Now teachers and staff can provide written testimony about student’s academic progress in foster care without written parental consent.

Another law is the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act which allows (homeless) youth to remain in their school of origin for the duration of the school year. They will also provide transportation for the child to get to their school of origin and help with costs such as school meals. However, this act is case-by-case on how homelessness is determined. Children who are already in stable foster care placement are usually not considered homeless.

How CASA Volunteers Help

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are often educational advocates for the children they serve. Once signed releases are sent to the child(ren)’s school, CASA volunteers can gather information from the school counselor, teachers, principle, etc. to get an overall understanding of academics and behaviors in school. With that information, CASA can recommend to the courts if the child needs additional help. For example, implementing a disability and special education plans (IEP) or behavioral interventions (BIP). Based on a child’s age, here are some things to keep in mind when being their educational advocate:

  1. Early Childhood (Birth – 5) •Developmental milestones, Birth to 3 Program, Headstart/Early Headstart

  2. School-Age (K – 12) •Attendance, performance, behavior, extracurriculars

  3. Transitioning (14+) •Independent living plan, assistance with college or vocational training, other goals, IEP transition, etc.

In 2017, CASA of Rock County completed a study for United Way comparing the academic performance of children who are in the child welfare system and have a CASA advocate to those in the system who do not. Through a lottery-based analysis, the academic performance of 23 children, over a three-year period, was collected. The study compared the overall GPA of the children as well as their performance in three core subject areas; math, science and English. Here are our findings from the study:

  1. The overall average GPA for children with a CASA increased, while the overall average GPA for children without a CASA decreased.

  2. 50% of the students with a CASA either increased or maintained their GPA, while only 36% of children without a CASA increased or maintained their GPA.

  3. 42% of the students with a CASA increased their grades in math, while only 27% of the students without a CASA increased their grades in math.

  4. 50% of the children with a CASA increased their number of A’s, while only 27% of students without a CASA increased their number of A’s.

Change a child’s story and become a CASA volunteer! www.casarockcounty.org

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