The U.S. Department of Education today released a new toolkit to inspire and support current and former foster youth pursuing college and career opportunities. The Foster Care Transition Toolkit includes tips and resources intended to help foster youth access and navigate social, emotional, educational and skills barriers as they transition into adulthood.
Currently, there are over 400,000 children and youth in America’s foster care system and every year, more than 23,000 youth age out of the system, never having found the security of a permanent home.
“Many foster youth lack stable residences and strong support structures and face tremendous barriers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “This toolkit offers practical tips on navigating those challenges – with education as the foundation.”
Throughout my childhood, school was an oasis from my chaotic home life. I reveled in learning new concepts and thrived off of the validation my teachers offered me. The classroom was the only place where I received consistent affirmation and felt safe. When I became a foster child at the age of fifteen, my education became one of my primary concerns. I was afraid that my education would be affected, and my fears were soon confirmed.
My social worker informed me that there were very few foster homes for someone my age, and that it was highly unlikely that I would find a permanent place to stay until I graduated from high school. Changing foster homes frequently would have interfered with my ability to stay at my high school, and I was not willing to give up both a stable family and a stable education. Instead, I learned that a law called the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act would allow me to remain in my high school when living outside of the school district as long as I met the act’s definition of homeless. In Connecticut, foster youth placed in emergency youth shelters receive McKinney-Vento protections, and I chose to live in emergency shelters in order to maintain educational stability.
Today the U.S. Department of Education is releasing resources to emphasize and support the needs of foster care students. In addition to new guidance, ED has launched a dedicated web page, Students in Foster Care, and issued a joint letter with the U.S. Department of Health Human Services to education authorities about increasing educational stability for children and youth in foster care.
The guidance released today will make it easier for caseworkers, child welfare agencies and tribal organizations responsible for the placement and care of children and youth in foster care to have direct access to their education records. The guidance provides states with information to implement the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA), an amendment to The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It also details the amendment’s impact on the confidentiality provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The guidance will help states improve educational and developmental outcomes for students in foster care by providing authorized agencies with access to the records they need to meet the early intervention or educational needs of the students.
Setting up a new apartment and living independently is challenging for a new graduate with a new job, but if you’re one of the roughly 113 children a month aging out of the foster care system in Southwest Florida the challenge can be even more daunting.
The Children’s Network of Southwest Florida provides independent living training each month for 100 to 125 people turning 18 and preparing to leave the foster care system, according to Aimee McLaughlin. She’s the spokeswoman for the agency that runs the adoption and foster care system in five counties. About 1,500 children are in foster care in Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Charlotte counties.
“We can always use more support for our youth,” McLaughlin said by email. “One agency or one person can’t do it alone. We need mentors, more pro bono services like apartments willing to negotiate, businesses to offer classes, driving schools to offer lessons, etc.”
New York City is launching a campaign to recruit gay and lesbian foster parents, part of a major push to expand the kinds of families who consider fostering and to find more welcoming homes for children who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.
The public ad campaign, set to roll out this week, features images of an interracial gay couple spending time with a young child. “Be the reason she has hope,” one of the ads reads. In another, a black woman is pictured alone with a white teenage boy. “Be the reason it gets better,” the message says.
How many of the nearly 13,000 children in New York City’s foster-care system identify as LGBTQ is unclear because the city does not keep such data. But, citing anecdotal evidence, researchers, child advocates and city officials insist that the children are disproportionately represented in the foster care system and say the need to find them supportive homes is great.
“When we decided to do this campaign we knew that LGBTQ young people are disproportionately represented in our foster care population, especially among our teens,” said Ronald Richter, commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services, the city’s child welfare agency.
Newspaper articles, TV shows and books are filled with horror stories of children placed in foster care. A new study bucks that trend by showing out-of-home placements can improve the emotional health of some youths who have been maltreated by a parent.
The study, led by Ann-Marie Conn, PhD, general pediatric academic fellow at University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, will be presented Monday, May 6, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC.
Dr. Conn and her colleagues compared mental health problems in 281 children ages 3-18 years who remained at home after being maltreated, with 482 children who were placed out of their homes (e.g., in foster care). These children were from a nationally representative sample of children referred to child welfare.
The Red Thread welcomes guest writer Chris Baer. An adoptive father curious about his son’s medical history and heritage, Baer sought out DNA testing. Here, he writes about why he did it and why he believes all adoptive parents should have their children tested. He also shares some of the major discoveries he made along the way.
Growing up as the youngest of the Baer family clan, I knew what to expect in becoming a Baer: a Roman nose, sharp wits, esoteric interests, and, if the genetic dice rolled badly, my grandfather’s terrifying bipolar disorder.
I also knew what it was to become a Lair, my mother’s family: patience, craftiness, good hair and bad teeth.
Growing up in the Baer Lair (as our mailbox announced) and inheriting an equal, random mix of genes from both sets of parental chromosomes, I had a pretty good idea of what to prepare for.
Say "adoption" and many Americans think "babies." The U.S. system was largely organized around placing infants, both from this country and abroad. It turns out that, by far, the largest number of adoptions in the U.S. is through the foster care system. That means toddlers, young children, even teens.
Yet many in the field say the system does little to help families cope with the special issues a number of these children will face, even years after adoption.
Foster adoptions have nearly doubled since 1997, when a policy change gave states financial incentive to place children with permanent families. The federal government has also waged an aggressive and charming ad campaign, with TV spots reassuring people that they "don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent."
Today, more than 50,000 foster children are adopted each year by people like Carlton Hadden and Ronnie Roebuck. The Maryland couple met their son, Phillip, when he was 9, the median age of those adopted from foster care. Since he was a toddler, Phillip had cycled through some 10 different foster placements, twice being abandoned by people who’d planned to adopt him. Roebuck says that early on the boy told them, "I have major issues."
Steven and Roger Ham, gay men raising 12 children adopted from foster care, were recently named to Esquire magazine’s list of the 10 best dads of 2012. But the two had no idea until it was pointed out to them.
They’re a little busy.
Steven spent six years at home taking care of the growing family. In January, he went back to work full time now that Olivia, the youngest, is 3 and eager to go to preschool like her siblings
Roger, who works as a school-bus driver and had the summer off, took 11 of the kids on a three-week, 4,248-mile road trip that involved four DVD players, three iPads, a 11/2-pound dog named Zeus and a tiny orange kitten that Elizabeth, 13, found recently.
Vanessa, 17, the oldest, bailed out of the 15-passenger van at their first stop in Las Vegas. She opted for a sibling-free visit with Steven’s brother and his wife while the rest of the clan headed up the West Coast, camping near beaches along the way to Washington state to visit family, and then back to San Diego.
A Two Harbors couple’s child foster care license was revoked because the foster mother spanked a foster child in violation of state rules, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Kirk and Beth Schield were issued a license to care for up to four foster children in their home on Dec. 1, 2010. The revocation was announced in a letter to the Schields dated July 6 and was posted on Tuesday on the department’s website. No criminal charges were filed.
The Schields have the right to repeal the revocation.
Kirk Schield is pastor of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Two Harbors. He told the Lake County News-Chronicle on Wednesday that they will appeal and hope to have their license restored soon. Schield said he and his wife received the state’s letter on Monday.