The Foster Care Ghetto and School Reform

Posted by on March 14, 2011

Aging out shouldn’t mean dropping out

In a post on his Dropout Nation website, Rishawn Biddle cites that approximately 424,000 children nationwide were in foster care in the 2008-2009 fiscal year, and 26,000 each year age out of the system, often while still in high school. Given the lack of stability in their home lives, Biddle stresses it’s as important for American public education to keep foster kids on track towards high school and college graduation as it is to do so with all children in the care of schools. More often than not, however, foster kids age out and drop out. Just 20 percent of 13-year-old foster care kids attending Chicago’s public schools in 1998 graduated on time five years later, according to a 2004 study; they were also twice as likely as the overall enrollment to land in prison or jail. The abysmal academic performance of kids in foster care all but ensures most will end up in poverty or prison during their adulthood, in Biddle’s view. They are also at risk of becoming parents who introduce still more kids into the child welfare system. Like the juvenile justice system, child welfare systems are “scary places for reformers because there aren’t any relatively easy answers,” writes Biddle. “The solutions for dealing with laggard teachers are far easier to develop and even implement than it is to proffer ways for solving neglect and abuse. But it is critical for reformers to consider what is happening in child welfare.”

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