FosterEd Launched in Pima County

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Several Pima County education, child welfare, behavioral health and judicial agencies joined with the National Center for Youth Law yesterday to launch an educational pilot project called FosterEd, which is part of the national FosterEd Initiative to improve the educational outcomes of thousands of school-age foster children living in Pima County.

Backers hope it will serve as the model for a statewide program that will support the educational success of all Arizona foster children:

“Improving the educational outcomes of students in foster care cannot be accomplished by any one agency alone,” said Pauline Machiche, Program Manager, DES, CPS, Region 2. “It requires increased collaboration and communication, and increased commitment to ensuring foster children receive the educational opportunities they need. I am delighted to be working with FosterEd, the Juvenile Courts, Pima County education agencies, Pima County behavioral health providers and Pima County community organizations to implement new practices that will help our foster children succeed in school.”

At any given time, there are approximately 4,000 foster children in Pima County and approximately 14,000 in Arizona.

FosterEd improves the educational outcomes of children and youth in foster care by ensuring each is supported by an educational champion and strengthened by an education team. Educational champions improve school success by setting high expectations, making sure homework is completed, and ensuring the child is enrolled in appropriate classes. Education teams identify educational strengths and needs, ensure the student receives appropriate opportunities, and monitors educational progress. FosterEd currently operates in Arizona, California, and Indiana. The Initiative has helped thousands of foster children receive needed educational services and supports and was recently recognized by the Center for the Study of Social Policy as one of 15 exemplary programs that help foster youth thrive.

“The educational outcomes of children and youth in the foster care system are heartbreakingly poor,” said Cathleen Fitzgerald, Education Coordinator at Pima County Juvenile Court. “By partnering with other agencies through the FosterEd Initiative, we can ensure children are paired with educational champions and help ensure they succeed in school.”

At yesterday's press conference, former state lawmaker Pete Hershberger discussed national statistics that make it clear children in the welfare system face a number of challenges:

· Foster children have lower grade point averages, change schools more frequently, earn fewer credits toward high school graduation, have lower scores on state testing, and are more likely to be exempted from state testing.

· Foster children are more likely to be in special education programs with disproportionate representation in classes that are segregated.

· A number of recent studies revealed that only about 56% of youth in foster care as older adolescents graduate from high school.

· Studies also show that only 13% of former foster youth go on to college, compared to about 60% of all high school seniors.

· Only 3% of former foster youth will eventually graduate from college, as compared to about 27% of the general adult population.

Without educational success, foster youth are ill-equipped to support themselves as adults: over 22% of former foster children experience homelessness, and almost 25% will be incarcerated within two years of leaving the child welfare system.

More on FosterEd and how you can get involved:

FosterEd: Arizona is a pilot for the state of Arizona. The project is overseen and supported by the Administrative Office of the Courts; Attorney General’s Office; Department of Behavioral Health Services; Department of Education; Division of Children, Youth and Families; Governor’s Office and State Board of Education. Tools, procedures, and best practices developed through this project will be disseminated statewide. The project will be subject to a rigorous external evaluation, conducted by RTI International.

FosterEd: Arizona represents a true community effort to guide foster children on the road to educational and life success. Additional local partners include Arizona Children’s Association; Casey Family Programs; Children’s Action Alliance; Community Foundation for Southern Arizona; Community Partnership of Southern Arizona; Division of Children, Youth and Families, Pima Region; Governor’s Office, Southern Region; Indigenous Strategies; Pima County Community College; Pima County Community Services; Pima County Juvenile Court Center; Pima County School Superintendent’s Office; Pima Joint Technological Educational District; Sunnyside Unified School District; Tucson Unified School District; United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona.

“No group of students is more in need of educational success than children in foster care,” said Debbie D’Amore, Chief Deputy, Office of the Pima County School Superintendent. “Without educational attainment, many become reliant on the public welfare system, experience homelessness, or are incarcerated. I am delighted to have the opportunity to partner with FosterEd to increase the number of Pima County foster children who experience educational success and success in life.”

More than $1,125,000 has generously been provided to support this project and associated statewide work. Funders include the Arizona Community Foundation; Community Foundation for Southern Arizona; Helios Education Foundation; Paul & Amy Blavin; Eaglet Fund; Troller Fund; Kieckhefer Foundation; Ventana Charitable Foundation and the Blessings Fund.

The project is seeking volunteers to serve as educational champions and educational mentors. Please contact Pete Hershberger at phershberger@youthlaw.org for information about how to volunteer, or for information about the project generally.

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