2021 Grants Challenge

Intervening Early to Champion Equitable Outcomes for Children in Foster Care

The Alliance for Children’s Rights is dedicated to promoting change that will make life better and more equitable for children and youth in foster care, including ensuring that trauma-sensitivity is integrated into learning environments for children recovering from neglect or abuse. With this project, the Alliance will focus on early intervention, prevention, and education efforts that can improve outcomes for those impacted by Los Angeles’s child welfare system. Better outcomes for our community’s foster youth will lead us to a better L.A.


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

County of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Children in the foster care system face unique challenges that impact their access to an equitable education. Of the 38,000 children in the foster care system in L.A., the majority live in poverty, 80% are children of color, and 50% have disabilities. The trauma they have experienced – through no fault of their own – increases the likelihood of learning and behavioral problems, lowers academic outcomes, and causes difficulty in regulating emotions. Children of color in foster care with disabilities face biases that cause over and underrepresentation in special education and harsh school discipline. This often results in poor outcomes for these youth. In fact, California’s foster youth have a 56% graduation rate compared to 85% of all students. The Covid-19 pandemic has further heightened the need to address the wide equity gap that exists in our education system. For those birth to age 5, the impacts and risks are even more acute during this critical window of child development.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

We seek to utilize an innovative and unique combination of direct advocacy, caregiver engagement, and professional training to ensure children in foster care are heading toward a better future, and our community is heading toward a more equitable L.A. Our Education Program will advocate for babies and toddlers, during this critical window where 90% of brain development occurs, to access life-changing early childhood education. We will ensure that they are getting assessed to identify their special needs, enrolled at regional centers and school districts for early intervention services, and receiving any compensatory services due to Covid-19 closures. We also will educate the families with these young children in their care, on the importance of early childhood interventions to mitigate the effects of trauma and developmental delays in babies and toddlers. We will teach these caregivers and parents to identify and understand developmental milestones and how to navigate the complex system of early intervention services for their children. At the same time, to promote equity and improve the educational systems these children will soon enter, we will train school professionals on identifying and reducing racial bias in school and on how to create trauma-informed learning environments that meet the needs of foster children so they can remain in the classroom, heal, and learn.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 500

Indirect Impact: 3,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Within the one-year grant period, we hope that: 1. At least 100 children age 0 to 5 will receive advocacy services and support from our team of staff and volunteer attorneys to obtain critical early education interventions, including compensatory services necessitated by the pandemic, to prepare them for kindergarten and beyond. 2. 100 caregivers will be educated on the importance of early childhood interventions to mitigate the effects of trauma or developmental delays in babies and toddlers; how to watch for signs of developmental delay; and how to navigate complex early intervention systems to access services for their children. 3. 300 professionals will be trained to identify and reduce racial bias in school and to create trauma-informed learning environments that reduce disparities and promote equity. In achieving these, we will be making meaningful gains for those impacted and toward our vision of a more equitable and racially just education system in L.A.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

We document and evaluate our work through detailed case files that track issues presented, services provided, and demographics for all cases. Through weekly case reviews, the program director meets with staff to troubleshoot individual cases, streamline and improve processes for service delivery, and identify new areas for training and resource development. For the education and training sessions we conduct (remotely when necessary), we measure impact by number of participants and estimate from there the number of children we will reach. To evaluate progress towards proposed outcomes, we will monitor the following indicators and benchmarks: 1. Number of children receiving services and support to obtain early education interventions. 2. Number of caregivers educated on the importance of early childhood interventions. 3. Number of professionals trained to identify and reduce racial bias in education and to create trauma-informed learning environments.

Which of the LEARN metrics will you impact?​

Early education enrollment