Foster Care Awareness Month: Educational Disparity for Foster Youth

With dismal statistics like the average reading level of a 17-year-old in foster care being that of a seventh grader and less than 60 percent of children who age out of foster care graduating high school by age 19 compared to almost 90 percent of the general population, Children’s Rights is launching its fifth annual Fostering the Future campaign. Children’s Rights is showcasing the educational disparity for children in foster care and advocating for change.

Throughout foster care awareness month, Children’s Rights will share stories online of youth like Nyeelah Innis who spent eight years in foster care and not only bounced through multiple foster homes and residential treatment facilities, but also many schools as well.

“They often put my schooling on the back burner,” Innis said. “I had to self-teach myself.”

Now Innis is a youth leader with Georgia EmpowerMEnt and speaking out about the need for reform in the education system to better meet the needs of kids in foster care.

While those reforms have started to be addressed in legislation like the Fostering Connections to Success Act in 2008, and more recently in the Every Student Succeeds Act that was passed last year, more still needs to be done, according to advocates. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) is teaming up with other legislators to introduce legislation that will promote trauma-informed schools and classrooms. H.R. 1757, the Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act of 2017, will create a taskforce that will create best-practice plans for trauma-informed identification, referral and support in schools. Part of the bill includes grants that would help schools provide trauma and mental health supports for children in schools.

“Education is a fundamental right for all children of the United States,” Davis said. “Currently foster youth do not enjoy equal access to education. We now have the opportunity to better prepare K-12 teachers. Our bill provides comprehensive education reform.”

Davis also has other bills in the works that will focus on increasing scholarship opportunities for foster youth, reducing food insecurities for former foster youth attending college, and helping foster youth obtain drivers licenses. A former teacher, Davis is focused on helping kids in foster care overcoming obstacles, kids like Brian Morgantini who is now trying to help teachers understand the impacts that trauma has on a child’s ability to learn. Now 22 years old, Morgantini lived in foster care for 17 years, moving through schools and placements on a regular basis.

“Every aspect of my life transitioned constantly,” Morgantini said. “Moving to schools reinforced the trauma I experienced as a child.”

Throughout May, voices like those of Innis and Morgantini will be shared by Children’s Rights as the organization partners with others to advocate for the improvement of foster youths’ education outcomes.

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