Building a Statewide Support System for Students in Foster Care
In Arizona, FosterEd is working in partnership with a deeply invested team of state and local partners, students, and parents to create a future in which the vast majority of foster youth graduate high school with the widest array of possibilities for their future. The campaign began with the development and launch of a demonstration site in Pima County. The success of that effort, combined with the sense of urgency that followed the publication of Arizona’s Invisible Achievement Gap, a report documenting the achievement crisis facing Arizona’s students in foster care, spurred the passage of legislation that will lead to statewide implementation of the FosterEd approach through a public-private partnership.
In 2012, we began discussions with Arizona’s child welfare, education, and philanthropic leaders about the possibility of establishing a county-level pilot program in the state, with the long-term goal of expanding the program statewide. In early 2013, we hired an Arizona director and began planning this pilot, working closely with leadership in child welfare, education, and judicial agencies to establish the infrastructure necessary for the project, map out referral processes, and define the scope of student-level work. We hired a team of education liaisons and began accepting a small number of student referrals in late 2013, and officially launched the demonstration site in Pima County – home to more than 3,000 children in foster care – in early 2014.
Arizona’s Invisible Achievement Gap is a report that for the first time documented the extent to which Arizona’s foster youth struggle in school, even as compared to other at-risk student subgroups. The report covered Arizona students for the year 2012-13 and was released in fall 2015. It documented that students in foster care were a subgroup distinct from all other subgroups, including low socioeconomic students, and that students in foster care performed more poorly than any other subgroup. They dropped out more frequently and graduated less frequently. The publication of this report improved the political climate for a statewide response to the struggles of students in foster care.
In May 2016, Governor Doug Ducey signed HB 2665, legislation that includes provisions to establish and fund a statewide expansion of FosterEd: Arizona’s Pima County demonstration program. This demonstration program has improved education outcomes for school-age foster children in the county.