Policies and Practices to Address the Educational Needs of Foster Children in Ten Florida Counties
40 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2018
Date Written: October 16, 2018
Children in foster care have persistently low academic outcomes. Federal and Florida state law has tried to address some of the structural barriers that contribute to these poor outcomes. Florida was one of the first states, in 2004, to enact legislation requiring school and child welfare systems to collaboratively address the needs of this high-risk group for whom they share responsibility. Since then, similar mandates have been incorporated into federal child welfare and education laws. Yet there is little information about whether these high-level policies have translated into meaning changes in practice to better support the academic needs of children in foster care. This report contributes to filling that gap by examining county-level policy and practice in 10 Florida counties. The researchers interviewed the child welfare and education staff who served as the point of contact for the other agency in each county. The report presents findings in key areas such as the role of the liaison, collaboration and coordination between the systems, policies and practices to decrease school mobility, monitoring and promoting academic progress, information-sharing and the process for appointing surrogate parents. The study revealed wide variation in whether the county had full-time liaisons, the extent of their inter-agency collaboration, and electronic exchange of school records. Counties with established inter-agency relationships appeared well positioned to identify and address system-level barriers that interfere with education. The next step for these counties is to translate those system-level efforts into data-driven strategies that lead to improved outcomes for individual children. Other counties are further behind and have not even begun to devote sufficient resources to collaboration and addressing foster care education issues. The report also shares recommendations for federal, state and local policymakers and stakeholders.
Keywords: education, child welfare, child protection, foster care, inter-agency collaboration, systems
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