The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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In the News: California Steps Up Education for Youth in Care
Represent staff

In this still-lousy economy, staying in school is one of the few ways you can boost your chances of getting a job.

It’s no secret that foster kids, on average, don’t do as well in school as their peers. That’s because we get moved so much and have to switch schools. Often we’ve been abused or neglected, which affects concentration, confidence, and trust in others. One recent report says that only 45% of foster youth graduate from high school nationwide.

California is doing its part to help give foster youth the educational boost they need. The state has 55,218 children in foster care, and 42,000 of them are school-age.

First, the state had to find out how much worse foster youth were doing. Researchers in California studied academic achievement of students who had been in the child welfare system at some time between grades 9 and 11.

To really isolate foster care as a factor, the researchers tried to make all the other factors the same. In other words, they compared students in care with students from families who had the same income level, grade, gender, school year, race, ethnicity, and English-speaking skills—and found that students in foster care were still less likely to succeed in school.

Some specific findings were that 45% of foster youth completed high school, compared with 53% of other disadvantaged students. Some 43% of foster youth and 46% of similar students enrolled in community college. These aren’t really all that far apart, which is good news. Even better news, the state is still working to close that gap and get everyone on equal footing.

California’s 2013 budget makes schools, districts, and education offices responsible for the academic success of foster youth. The state already tracks the performance of other groups of students that don’t do as well: different ethnic groups, disabled students, and students from poor families. Now they must track foster youth too. The budget also adds foster youth to the categories of students who get extra funding from the state—along with low-income students and those whose first language isn’t English.

We applaud California for making the investment in helping foster youth succeed in school. It’s the best chance we have to succeed as adults, so it’s money well spent. What’s your state doing?

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