Improving Educational Outcomes for Foster Youth in LA County

Idea by Children Now

Foster youth face unique obstacles that can disrupt their learning and impact their long-term educational success. As such, students in foster care need extra educational supports, yet school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education are not held accountable for providing the targeted help they need to learn and succeed. Children Now will work to increase transparency and accountability in Los Angeles County to ensure foster youth receive the dedicated supports and services they need to improve their educational outcomes.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Research (initial work to identify and understand the problem)

What is the need you’re responding to?

Foster youth face unique challenges that can disrupt their learning. They are often chronically absent (i.e. miss 10% or more days of school) due to placement changes, school transfers, court hearings, family visits, and disproportionate school discipline. The effects of trauma, frequent absences, and school changes can cause them to struggle to stay on track. LA County foster youth are more likely to perform below grade level than other students and have the highest rates of chronic absenteeism (29%), suspensions (11%), and expulsions (0.1%). They also have the lowest graduation rate (54%). Ultimately, they are not prepared for college and careers. While 93% of foster youth want to go to college, only 4% obtain a bachelor’s degree by age 26.

Foster youth need extra educational supports, yet local educational agencies (LEAs), like school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education, are not held accountable for providing the targeted help youth need to learn and thrive.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

Children Now is the only whole-child research, policy development, advocacy, communications and network-building organization that covers the full-range of children’s issues from prenatal through age 26, including early childhood, education, health, trauma and resilience, foster care and youth justice.

To improve the lives of California children, we must confront the structural barriers that stand in the way of children of color and children living in poverty being able to reach their full potential. To do that, we must transform children’s advocacy. We need to coordinate the voices of the thousands of organizations that serve and care about kids along with the enormous public support, and use that to push our state and local leaders to do what they know is right. Together, we can ensure that every child, especially those who are most vulnerable, such as kids living up the foster care system, receives the services and supports needed to grow up healthy and thrive.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?​

Direct Impact: 80

Indirect Impact: 15,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

On average, more than 61,000 California children and youth are in foster care each year and more than one third of them reside in LA County. When children and youth cannot safely remain at home due to abuse or neglect, they enter foster care and the state becomes their legal parent. Many children in foster care face unique challenges stemming from the complex trauma they have experienced and are at greater risk for poor outcomes, including low educational attainment and high rates of unemployment and homelessness, among others. It is imperative that supports and services are in place to help ensure that these vulnerable children and youth find the safety and stability they need in order to heal and thrive.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

We envision that our project will increase transparency around the dedicated supports and services provided to LA County’s foster youth and lead to greater accountability for improving the dire educational outcomes they face. In 2019, California changed the template for the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) that LEAs must submit to the state each year detailing how they serve their students. The LCAP template now includes instructions that encourage LEAs to specifically describe the services and supports they provide to meet foster youth’s educational needs. We believe this change will be a critical first step to improving the educational outcomes of foster youth by bringing to light the targeted educational services and supports provided to foster youth and identifying the gaps that must be addressed.

For this project, we will measure our success by the following metrics:

* The number of LEAs in LA County that are educated about the new instructions.

* The number of LEAs in LA County provided technical assistance as they complete their 2020-23 LCAPs.

* The number of LA County LCAPs analyzed to determine the services and supports provided to these highly vulnerable students.

* The number of LA County stakeholders and policymakers educated about the targeted services and supports available to foster youth and any gaps as identified through this analysis.

Which of the LEARN metrics will your submission impact?​

High school graduation rates

Student proficiency in English & Language Arts

K-8 chronic absenteeism

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Access to the LA2050 community

Communications support