Helping Students in Foster Care Succeed
Education is pivotal to young people’s successful transition into adulthood, yet data consistently reflects that many of our students in foster care are not thriving in K-12 environments and, as a result, are less likely to be prepared for higher education and/or career success. Children Now’s project will increase transparency around and highlight the existing gaps for the dedicated supports and services provided to LA County’s students in foster care and elevate opportunities to improve their educational experiences and outcomes.
What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?
Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
County of Los Angeles
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?
Research (initial work to identify and understand the problem)
What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?
Students in foster care face unique challenges that can disrupt their learning and throw them off-track from being college- and career-ready. For example, the trauma they have experienced can make it difficult to focus in class. Students in foster care often experience multiple changes in where they live and with whom, which translates to high rates of school mobility compared to other students. Court hearings, family visits, and disproportionate school discipline cause them to miss significant class time. As a result, students in foster care in LA County are more likely to perform below grade level in comparison to other students; have the highest rates of chronic absenteeism (31%) and high school dropout (28%) compared to other high-needs student groups; and are far less likely to earn a high school diploma in four years (52%) than students overall (82%). While 93% of youth in foster care say they want to go to college, only 8% obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree by age 26.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
Holding local educational agencies (LEAs), such as school districts and county offices of education, accountable for the support they provide to students in foster care to overcome the barriers they face is one critical way to improve students’ educational outcomes. Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) hold untapped potential to ensure LEAs provide targeted supports and services to students in foster care. Specifically, LEAs must submit LCAPs to the State annually to describe their plans to support positive student outcomes and, as of 2019, LEAs are “encouraged” to include a description of the targeted services and supports they will provide to their students in foster care. However, per Children Now’s analysis of a sample of 2021-22 LCAPs (including those submitted by LA County LEAs), only 33% of LCAPs included any services or supports that were targeted to meet the educational needs of youth in foster care. The poor educational outcomes of students in foster care indicate a lack of access to targeted supports, but this issue cannot be sufficiently addressed without a better understanding of the gaps. With support from LA 2050, Children Now will provide technical assistance to school districts in LA County and the LA County Office of Education (LACOE) to ensure they provide and describe in their 2022-23 LCAPs the support they will provide to students in foster care. We will also evaluate the descriptions included in the completed LCAPs and assess needed next steps.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
Education is pivotal to young people’s successful transition into adulthood, yet data consistently reflect that many of our students in foster care are not thriving in K-12 environments and, as a result, are less likely to be prepared for higher education and/or career success. Their poor academic outcomes, including low high school and college graduation rates, impact their prospects for employment that pay a living wage. Sadly, it is unclear what supports and services are provided by LEAs to this group of some of our highest-needs students in order to help them overcome the barriers they face. By better understanding systemic gaps, this project can identify the critical actions that must be taken in order to improve the educational experiences of students in foster care in LA County and ultimately, positively impact their outcomes around chronic absenteeism, suspension and expulsion, high school graduation, college enrollment and graduation, and employment.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
Our project will increase transparency around gaps in the dedicated supports and services provided to LA County’s students in foster care and lead to greater accountability for improving the dire educational outcomes they face. For this project, we will measure our success by the following metrics: • 81 LEAs in LA County will be pushed to include and highlight in their 2022-23 LCAPs the targeted supports and services they will provide to their students in foster care. • 81 LEAs in LA County will be offered technical assistance to complete their 2022-23 LCAPs. To further evaluate this project, we will analyze a sample of 2022-23 LA County LCAPs to determine the services and supports to be provided to high-needs students and gaps to be addressed. This project is a critical first step to improving the educational outcomes for the 10,000+ students in foster care in LA County.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 81
Indirect Impact: 10,000