The day that children and teens come into foster care, their education takes a back seat to their survival as they are removed from familiar homes, neighborhoods, and schools. These difficult situations place children and teens in foster care at an increased risk for failure in education.
While attending a school for an entire school year is an easy task for most students, school mobility is a challenge for students in foster care. Only 58% of students in foster care in grades K-12 attend the same school for one year. One in seven students change schools three or more times in the duration of one year, while other at-risk subgroups experience only 1% or lower. This shocking rate of school mobility negatively affects the relationships these students form at school and disrupts their education.
Schools in Arizona are graded with the A – F Letter Grade Accountability System, and a grade of A implies that the school is one of the best in the state. Only 17% of students in foster care attend grade-A schools, which implies that 83% attend low-performance schools in the state. Low-performance schools tend to struggle with student-discipline problems, lack an organized learning environment, and are plagued by low morale.
High school students in foster care have the highest drop-out rate and a shockingly low graduation rate. In Grade 9, the drop-out rate for students in foster care is 12%, three times greater than the rate of the overall student population in Arizona. By Grade 12, the drop rate moves up to 18% with a disturbing graduation rate of 33%.
Access to Technology
Schools are increasing the use of technology in classrooms to make teachers and textbooks more accessible from home. Students in foster care rarely have access to computers outside of the classroom which turns homework and studies into very difficult tasks. 20% of students in foster care living in urban areas and 5% of students in foster care living in rural areas have computer access at home. They must find time to complete long hours of homework without access to the internet while battling day-to-day obstacles.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced students in foster care even farther behind in their education. For many, school becomes a support system that feels safe and more like a home that a group home. School can provide a supportive community for students in foster care where they can build relationships and prepare for their future. The sudden closure of schools due to the pandemic is negatively affecting the students’ hard-won gains in their education because it is more difficult for the students to receive help from teachers. Often, the students don’t feel comfortable asking their caregivers for help with their schooling, especially if they had recently moved. Also, students in foster care face social isolation more regularly than the overall student population during this pandemic because they are less likely able to invite friends over or go out with friends.
Creating Opportunities for Success
Many students in foster care are robbed of the educational opportunities other students take for granted. The Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation is determined to support as many students in foster care as possible as they explore their education and life’s possibilities. We are aware of the hardships children and teens face in foster care, and we are working towards a solution that will help them catch up to their peers in school. We want to support and guide these students by walking with them through each phase of their education and providing opportunities that will help them succeed.