Education Committee Approves Legislation to Improve Educational Outcomes for Foster Youth
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2015
Melissa San Miguel, 510-835-8098 x3025
Lewis Cohen, 510-835-8098 x3045
Sacramento –Tens of thousands of California children in foster care are closer to improved educational opportunities, after the Assembly Education Committee unanimously approved AB 854 last night. The legislation authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber Ph.D., will grant foster children living with relatives access to supplemental educational services provided through the state’s Foster Youth Services (FYS) Program. The bill is sponsored by FosterEd: California, an initiative of the National Center for Youth Law.
Currently FYS uses a narrow eligibility definition based on placement, to exclude more than two thirds of California’s estimated 60,000 children in foster care. Dr. Weber’s legislation would adopt the more expansive definition of foster children used in the state’s groundbreaking Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) for education. The expanded definition includes foster children living in non-institutional foster care settings such as those living with relatives.
Addressing her fellow committee members before the vote, Dr. Weber said “Currently under LCFF we try to serve all foster youth. Under Foster Youth Services they only provide services for kids who are not in the homes of their relatives. And we want to encourage young people to be placed with relatives because that provides a better sense of stability for the children. But if they are placed with relatives they don’t get all of the services they need.” AB 854 is intended to correct this problem.
Students in foster care are one of the most vulnerable and academically underserved student groups in California schools. A recent statewide study found that foster youth had the lowest graduation rate and highest dropout rate of any student group in the state.
“The foster youth achievement gap is a tragedy,” said Foster-Ed: California Policy Manager Melissa San Miguel. “With the committee’s action today we are one step closer to additional supports for students and educators that will close that gap.”
Foster students change placements frequently which can often lead to changing schools. AB 854 recognizes that FYS coordinators, housed in county offices of education, are best positioned to ensure continuity of services and support for foster students. AB 854 leverages the expertise of the FYS coordinators to improve collaboration among various local agencies in support of individual foster children.
FosterEd, launched in 2009, is an initiative of the National Center for Youth Law. FosterEd improves these outcomes by ensuring foster children have educational champions supporting their success in school. Education specialists provide family case managers, teachers, school administrators, foster parents, biological parents, relative caregivers and others the skills and knowledge to identify educational strengths and ensure educational needs are met. The project ensures every foster child has an education case plan, and that these plans are implemented.
About the National Center for Youth Law
The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) is a national non-profit organization that has been working for over four decades to improve the lives of at-risk children. Employing a range of strategies, NCYL works to ensure that low-income children have the resources, support, and opportunities they need for healthy and productive lives.