“Foster Care” means substitute care for children placed by the Department of Human Services or a tribal child welfare agency away from their parents and for whom the department or agency has placement and care responsibility, including placements in foster family homes, foster homes of relatives, group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, child care institutions and pre-adoptive homes.
Children and youth in foster care represent one of the most vulnerable student subgroups in this country. Of the approximately 415,000 children in foster care in 2014, nearly 270,000 were in elementary and secondary schools. Studies find children in foster care are much more likely than their peers are to struggle academically and fall behind in school. Students in foster care at age 17 are also less likely to graduate from high school; with only 65 percent, graduating by age 21 compared to 86 percent among all youth ages 18 to 24.
Children in foster care experience much higher levels of residential and school instability than their peers; one study showed that 75 percent of children in foster care made an unscheduled school change in one school year, compared to less than 40 percent for children not in foster care. Unplanned school changes may be associated with delays in children’s academic progress, leaving highly mobile students potentially more likely to fall behind their less mobile peers academically. Children experiencing this type of instability, including many students in foster care, are thus more likely to face a variety of academic difficulties.
Educational stability is a key component in a foster care student’s success. At the federal and state level, laws have been passed that require local and state child welfare and education agencies to fully and faithfully understand and implement legislation focusing on continuity and stability in a foster care student’s education.
-ESSA: Ensuring Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care, ODHS and ODE, September 2020