Every fall, parents prepare to send their children back to school after a long summer break. That means buying new school supplies, getting haircuts, and selecting the perfect first-day-of-school outfit. For children and teens in foster care, focusing on schoolwork can be the furthest thing from their minds. Life as they know it has been disrupted; they have experienced trauma including abuse or neglect, been removed from their home and family, and may have had to change schools. Students in foster care who have experienced so much can become emotionally detached and distracted when it comes to their education.
So what can foster parents and educators do to help ensure a successful school year for these kids? Below are some ideas from the National Working Group on Foster Care and Education:
Set up a meeting
It’s important for all adults interacting with a child or teen in foster care to be aware of what he or she has experienced. Foster parents, social workers, teachers and school staff can be better prepared by meeting to discuss any triggers the youth has and ensure he or she has the proper resources to be mentally and emotionally engaged in school. If a child changes schools, teachers and school staff can relay important information about behaviors and performance.
Promote regular school attendance
According to data from the National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, only half of youth in foster care complete high school by their eighteenth birthday. Kids end up repeating grades over again or not graduating at all. Reinforcing the importance of regular school attendance creates consistency and stability during a confusing time in the child’s life. It also gives youth a chance to develop lasting relationships and build a support system with their teachers and peers.
Be an advocate for education
Children and teens in foster care need support from adults to help them meet their educational needs. Foster parents can get involved in a youth’s progress at school by attending parent/teacher conferences and school functions. Success in school is more than just grades and involves a child’s social, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Focus on the future
Children in foster care cannot control what has happened in the past, but they can take control of their future. Encourage kids to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, the arts or student clubs. For older youth about to transition out of foster care and into adulthood, encourage them to pursue higher education, employment or independent living.
Youth in foster care need understanding, supportive adults to help them navigate through a difficult time in their life. If you would like to make a difference in the life of a child or teen, learn more about becoming a foster parent. If fostering doesn’t work for you at this time, we encourage individuals, companies and communities to support students in foster care by participating in our Back-to-School supply drive.