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Indiana to create statewide program to improve the educational outcomes of foster children

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INDIANAPOLIS (May 14, 2012) — The Indiana Department of Child Services announced the creation of FosterEd: Indiana, a statewide program to improve the educational success of children in foster care. The DCS program, modeled on the privately funded FosterEd: Marion County pilot project, will employ 16 regional education specialists and a statewide manager to ensure foster children receive the educational opportunities they need to succeed in school, and in life.

“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 James W. Payne, DCS Director. “By making education a priority for these children, and providing access to the educational opportunities they need, they will have a better chance to achieve their goals and dreams.”

Foster children experience trauma as a consequence of having been abused or neglected and removed from their family, are frequently bounced from school to school, and often lack an adult supporting their educational success. Not surprisingly, national statistics paint a bleak picture of their academic success:

• 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 get a college degree, compared to 24 percent of the general population.

Studies also have shown that without educational success, foster youth are ill-equipped to support themselves as adults: More than 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), a national project, improves these outcomes by ensuring foster children have educational champions supporting their success in school. Education specialists provide family case managers, teachers, school administrators, foster parents, biological parents, relative caregivers and others the skills and knowledge to identify educational strengths and ensure educational needs are met. The project ensures every foster child has an education case plan, and that these plans are implemented.

“In establishing this statewide program, Indiana has made an important commitment to Indiana’s foster children,” said Jesse Hahnel, director of the national FosterEd Initiative. “Foster children experience tragically poor educational outcomes, even compared to other disadvantaged youth. This program will ensure every foster child has an educational champion and a plan for educational success.”

FosterEd, launched in 2009, and is an initiative of the National Center for Youth Law. The Mind Trust, a nonprofit driving innovative K-12 education reform in Indianapolis, provided funding and support to bring the program to Marion County.

“We are extremely pleased to see Indiana’s Department of Child Services embrace a program that makes a meaningful difference in improving the outcomes of foster children in our city and state,” said David Harris, Founder and CEO of The Mind Trust. “This helps advance our organization’s important goal of ensuring all children have the opportunity to receive an excellent education.”

In addition to The Mind Trust, support for the FosterEd: Marion County pilot project has been generously provided by the Central Indiana Community Foundation, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, the City of Indianapolis’ Community Crime Prevention Grant and USA Funds.

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