The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), the Indiana Youth Institute, and Child Advocates announced the launch of “FosterEd: Marion County.” The program, part of the national Foster Youth Education Initiative, has a stated goal of improving the educational outcomes for the approximately 1,700 foster children living in Marion County.
“One of the struggles for many children in foster care is the lack of a focused educational plan,” said James W. Payne, DCS Director and keynote speaker for the event. “DCS makes every effort to minimize the disruption these children undergo but even when placed close to their home the children may have to transfer to a new school district with new teachers and lesson plans. This lack of continuity takes a toll on their overall educational experience.”
Payne pointed to national statistics that painted a bleak future for those children who find themselves in the child welfare system:
• A full 75 percent of foster children are behind at least one grade level.
• Foster children are twice as likely to drop out of school as their peers.
• Only 1.8 percent of former foster children complete a bachelor’s degree, compared to 24 percent of the general population.
Studies have also shown that without educational success, foster youth are ill-equipped to support themselves as adults: over 22 percent of former foster children experience homelessness, and almost 25 percent will be incarcerated within two years of leaving the child welfare system.
The Foster Youth Education Initiative (FosterEd) is a project of the National Center for Youth Law aimed at improving the educational outcomes of foster children. The primary goal of the project is to ensure education is an integral part of each child’s case plan. Parents will learn skills to be education champions for their children and can work with others to advocate for their children’s instructional needs.
“It is important for us to support these children who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves removed from everything they know,” said Payne. “By cultivating education as a priority for these children and providing supports to help them access these opportunities we provide them a chance to create an education plan they want and need to achieve their goals and dreams.”
“FosterEd: Marion County” is a pilot focused on improving educational outcomes of Marion County foster children through increased communication and collaboration between DCS, the Marion County Juvenile Courts, local school districts, and community organizations.
“FosterEd: Marion County” represents a community effort to guide foster children on the road to educational and life success. Statewide partners include the Indiana Department of Child Services, Indiana Department of Education, and Indiana’s Supreme Court, Division of State Court Administration, Office of GAL/CASA.
Collaborators include a broad array of local agencies, including: Indianapolis Public Schools, the Marion County Juvenile Courts, the Indianapolis Bar Association, About Special Kids, INSOURCE, Connected by 25’s Education Success Program!, Disability Legal Services of Indiana, and Youth Law T.E.A.M.
Over $325,000 in support of this project has been generously provided by The Mind Trust, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Community Crime Prevention Grant, and USA Funds.