Every year thousands of children are removed from their families and are placed into out-of-home care. While these children are placed in care settings with a hope of a better future, they are often faced with many challenges that impact their short and long terms growth. As of 2017, 442,995 children have been removed from their families and placed in the U.S. foster care system for an average of 20.1 months. Placement occurs for several reasons, such as neglect, parent incarceration, drug abuse, and caretakers’ inability to cope. Twenty-seven percent (117,110) have been in care over two years, and all of these children face many obstacles in life that can impact their short- and long-term well-being. One of the most significant challenges they face is access to a stable educational environment that supports positive mental, emotional, behavioral, physical, and social growth. Frequent moves, lack of coordination between schools, and underdeveloped infrastructure to support unique needs are some of the significant predictors of disproportionately poor education outcomes for children in foster care and other residential settings. The lack of stable educational environment leads to a number of challenges related to enrollment, stability, access to special services, peer relations, grade retention, and caregiver and teacher familiarity with academic strengths and weaknesses of the child. To improve their educational outcomes, there is a need for advocacy and significant changes at the at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Consistent efforts need to be made by stakeholders, such as state and federal government, schools, child welfare systems, and community partners to address systemic inequities, improve current policies and practices, increase accessibility to quality schools, provide mental health services, and, most importantly, establish a stable environment that will enable the youth to flourish and succeed.
Aakanksha Sinha and Ruth G. McRoy
John Paul Horn, Emily Bruce, and Toni Naccarato
In the United States, the child welfare system is composed of multiple services to keep children safe, either by strengthening family units, preventing maltreatment, or providing alternative care arrangements for children who are unable to safely remain at home. These services include child protection, family support and maintenance programs, reunification, and out-of-home care. Some children return safely to their families, but other children might never return home. Services for these youth might include adoption, guardianship, and/or transitional planning for youth exiting foster care to adulthood. Case-carrying social workers hold responsibility for assessing the case, making recommendations to the court, and preparing reports for parents, court officers, and sometimes for dependent children (based on their age). These individuals are professional social workers with graduate degrees in social work. Case aids or case assistants often provide support services for the case-carrying social worker.