Foster Youth Education
Many foster youth have high educational aspirations - 84 percent of 17-year old foster youth want to earn a college degree or higher. But instability and trauma interfere with children’s learning, leading to early and persistent achievement gaps. For example, 75 percent of foster youth read below grade-level in third grade, a critical benchmark for future academic success, compared to 55 percent of all students. These trends continue through high school and beyond: only 45 percent of California foster youth finish high school on time, compared to 79 percent of all California kids. Foster youth are also less likely to attend college than their peers and more likely to drop out, with only two to nine percent of the state’s foster youth earning a bachelor’s degree.
Foster youth move frequently. Almost two-thirds change schools seven times or more while in care, a trend associated with lower graduation rates.
Behaviors stemming from untreated trauma histories are linked to high rates of suspensions and expulsions. Nationally, 67 percent of foster youth have been suspended at least once, and students who are suspended are five times more likely to drop out of school.
The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) targets these issues by granting districts extra funding to address this achievement gap. Despite the tremendous promise offered by the new school finance law, early implementation of the LCFF hasn’t yet resulted in a significant improvement in targeted supports and services for foster youth.
Pro-Kid® Policy Agenda
California should provide foster youth with the targeted supports and services they need to succeed in school and prepare for college and career. The state should ensure that the new school finance system benefits foster youth as intended.
The state has taken critical first steps to reducing barriers to foster youth’s educational success. Under the new school finance law, districts must report on foster youth’s educational outcomes and actively work to improve them. To help achieve this, the California Department of Education and the California Department of Social Services have recently begun sharing data on foster youth. To increase college graduation rates among current and former foster youth, a recent state law expands the Extended Opportunities Programs and Services program. The program provides enrollment assistance, educational planning, tutoring and educational services and limited financial assistance, creating more support for foster youth students on college campuses. Still, too few California foster youth are getting the education they need to succeed in life.