- When Seattle non-profit Treehouse learned that the 2010 graduation rate for students in foster care was only 36%, it begin a program targeted at providing educational specialists to help those students succeed in school, NPR reports.
- Youth in foster care are often at higher risk of dropping out of school because of trauma, shifts in educational placement due to shifts in foster families, and lack of longterm parental support.
- Under the new Treehouse program, which is already seeing remarkable success, each educational specialist works with about 20 students, monitoring and rewarding school progress with a focus on attendance, behavior, and course performance. Students are guided through setting and meeting educational goals through “student-centered planning.”
Being in foster care can have a big impact not only on the individual lives of students, but also on the educational measures of school districts and on society, as well. According to 2008 statistics from the National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, “students in foster care score 16–20 percentile points below their peers in state standardized testing; less than 60% of students in foster care finish high school; only 3% of children who have been in foster care attend post-secondary education after high school graduation; and 42% of children do not begin school immediately after entering foster care, often because of missing records and gaps in school attendance.”
The problem has only increased in recent years. The number of children in foster care has risen from 397,000 nationally in 2012 to 437,500 in 2016. The biggest reason for this increase is the opioid crisis, which is affecting a growing number of families. In addition to students in foster care, there are approximately 2.5 million children living with grandparents or other relatives because of parental addiction. These students often face similar educational struggles as foster care students do.
However, there are measures schools can take to better support these students. Counselors need to be alert to the challenges these students face and strive to connect them with resources in the community that can empower them educationally. If resources are not available, schools may be able to reach out to local groups to start them. In areas where foster care needs are increasing, schools can also advocate for responsible citizens to become foster parents, increasing these students' chances for success. Under new protections in the Every Student Succeeds Act, schools are required to help ensure the educational stability of these students, and additional resources for this purpose may be available as well.