Working together to help foster and homeless students succeed
Working together to help foster and homeless students succeedBy GLORIA ROMERO | Orange County Register
PUBLISHED: April 10, 2019 at 8:00 am |
On any given day, thousands of California children wake up as foster youth, separated from their biological families under court order.
Six times as many wake up in a car, on a borrowed couch of a relative or friend, or on a street. During the 2018-19 school year, California officially reported 33,563 foster youth attended public schools—0.5% of all California students. Another 207,677 students were officially identified as homeless—3.4% of all California students. In Orange County alone, there were 1,639 foster and 25,418 homeless youth.
Despite the statistics, the educational impacts of both foster and homeless youth remain largely invisible to the public. Yet, homelessness, particularly, impacts all sectors of Orange County, from Irvine Unified with 0.2% of its students identified as homeless, to Santa Ana Unified with a staggering 11.9% of homeless students. In the shadow of Disneyland, 9% of Anaheim Elementary students are homeless; 6.2% of Capistrano Unified students are homeless. Children living without a home are an everyday, yet easily overlooked, reality in Orange County.
National statistics underscore that the stakes are high:
• The likelihood of foster youth being absent from school are twice that of other students and 34% of 17-18 year olds in care have experienced 5+ school changes.
• The percentage of foster youth who graduate from high school and enter and attend college is far less than other students: 20%.
• 87% of California’s foster youth failed to meet Mathematics standards, compared to 61% of students in general while over 80% failed to meet English Language Arts standards, compared with 50% of the general student population.
•Homeless students are 87% more likely to drop out of school than their stably housed peers. Without a diploma, youth are 4.5 times more likely to experience adult homelessness.
In the face of such, education, faith-based, legislative and judicial representatives are gathering today for a Foster and Homeless Youth Summit designed for dialogue, development, and implementation of responses and tools to empower these youth, their biological and foster resource families, and inter-governmental agencies to make tangible the promise of education as the key to the American Dream — despite their unique life circumstances and challenges.
For those gathering today, the commitment is to minimize the education disconnect, accelerate academic growth, and understand that one glove doesn’t fit all. The summit is spearheaded by Scholarship Prep Charter School which was authorized by the Orange County Department of Education to develop a unique academic pipeline for underserved youth, particularly foster students. With growing public policy debates over effective homeless housing proposals, the Summit expanded its 2019 focus to illuminate the needs of both foster and homeless youth.
When supported by strong policies and practices, affirmative school experiences can counteract the negative effects of separation, neglect, abuse, and a sense of lack of permanency for foster and homeless youth. Strong, coordinated efforts can lead to significant progress in changing the consistent and disheartening picture about educational outcomes for both foster and homeless children.
With cross-system collaboration, we are positioned to promote success for all kids, leading with our most at risk. Here in Orange County, faith-based leaders at Saddleback Church have led remarkable, efficacious campaigns to recruit and train resource families in the education and social-emotional care of these youth. Orange County’s Juvenile Justice Commission has been an impactful, integral voice on school placement policies. Mental health advocates are sharing addressing social emotional needs of frequently absent students while minimizing academic losses. School leaders are advocating for a better understanding of the foster youth experience and the continued supports required long after adoption. Court advocates are questioning home school placement decisions when strong, alternative schools are available and accessible to expeditiously close achievement gaps and place California’s most vulnerable students on a collegiate pathway.
Keynoting today’s summit is the Honorable Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lucy Armendariz who will share her personal story of the fight for educational security and successful attainment of the American Dream for California’s most vulnerable children. Acting with a sense of urgency, the summit intends to shed a powerful spotlight on what, for far too long, has only resided in the shadows of our mind.