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FosterEd: Marion County Launches in Indiana

6d069a47acThe Foster Youth Education Initiative, a project of the National Center for Youth Law, is pleased to announce the launch of FosterEd: Marion County on September 6th. This joint initiative of the Indiana Youth Institute, Marion County Department of Child Services, and Child Advocates, will ensure the 2,500 foster children living in Marion County, Indiana, receive the educational supports and opportunities they need.

Children in foster care are taken from their families and placed in state custody because they have been abused or neglected. Bounced from foster home to foster home and from school to school, without an adult supporting their educational success, they all too frequently fall further and further behind, until many drop out. Studies show that:

  • Twice as many foster children repeat a grade1
  • 75 percent of foster children are behind grade leve2
  • 67 percent of foster children are suspended from school, and 17 percent are expelled, more than three times the general student population3
  • Foster youth are twice as likely to drop out of school as their peers4
  • Only 1.8 percent of former foster youth complete a bachelor’s degree, compared to 24 percent of the general population5

Without educational success, foster youth are ill-equipped to support themselves as adults. The cost to these children, and society, is extraordinary: over 22 percent of former foster children experience homelessness,6  17 percent receive public assistance,7  and unemployment rates top 50 percent.8

For the past year, FosterEd has been supporting and providing technical assistance to a coalition of Indiana agencies and organizations committed to improving the school success of Marion County foster children.

Academic outcomes will be improved by implementing FosterEd’s three core strategies: improving inter-agency collaboration, ensuring every foster child has an educational champion, and creating a network of foster youth education liaisons. A growing body of evidence suggests each of these strategies is effective in school success:

  • Foster children served by systems that are actively collaborating are more likely to regularly attend school9 and show academic gains.10
  • Disadvantaged children who receive educational championing are more likely to matriculate to the next grade with their peers,11 are more likely to be on track to graduate,12 and are more likely to remain enrolled in school.13  Evidence even suggests that individualized educational championing can increase a foster child’s chance of finding a permanent home.14
  • Foster children served by foster youth education liaisons are less likely to be suspended or expelled,15 have experienced significant gains in GPA,16 have experienced significant test score gains,17 and are more likely to graduate.18

Led by the Indiana Youth Institute, Marion County Department of Child Services, and Child Advocates, this project is being launched in partnership with a broad array of local agencies and organizations, including: Indianapolis Public Schools; the Marion County Juvenile Courts; the Indianapolis Bar Association; About Special Kids; INSOURCE; Connected by 25’s Education Success Program!; Disability Legal Services of Indiana; and Youth Law T.E.A.M. Statewide guidance is being provided by the Indiana Department of Child Services, Indiana Department of Education, and Indiana’s Supreme Court, Division of State Court Administration, Office of GAL/CASA. Financial support is being generously provided by The Mind Trust; Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust; the Central Indiana Community Foundation; the Community Crime Prevention Grant; and USA Funds.

FosterEd: Marion County represents a community effort to put thousands of foster children on the road to educational and life success. It will serve as a model for similar efforts nationwide.

NCYL’s FosterEd Initiative as recently awarded a $50,000 USA Funds grant and a $50,000 Community Crime Prevention grant to improve the educational outcomes of Indianapolis foster children and reduce the number of those who enter the justice system.


NCYL attorney Jesse Hahnel is the director of the Foster Youth Education Initiative.


  1. National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, Fact Sheet: Educational Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster and Out-of-Home Care 3 (2008).
  2. Honoring Emancipated Youth, Barriers Facing Foster Care Youth: National and Local Statistics About Emancipating Foster Youth 1.
  3. National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, Fact Sheet: Educational Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster and Out-of-Home Care 2 (2008).
  4. National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, Fact Sheet: Educational Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster and Out-of-Home Care 5 (2008).
  5. National Working Group on Foster care and Education, Fact Sheet: Educational Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster and Out-of-Home Care 6 (2008).
  6. National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, Fact Sheet: Educational Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster and Out-of-Home Care 6 (2008).
  7. National Working group of Foster Care and Education, Fact Sheet: Educational Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster and Out-of-Home Care 6 (2008).
  8. Honoring Emancipated Youth, Barriers Facing Foster Care Youth: National and Local Stastics About Emancipating Foster Youth 2.
  9. John M. Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio, Jr., and Robert Balfanz, On the Front Lines of Schools:>Perspectives of Teachers and Principals on the High School Dropout Problem>
  10. Ibid.
  11. Treehouse Educational Advocacy Program, Year End Report 2008-2009 (on file with the National Center for Youth Law).
  12. Katherine Larson and Russell Rumberger, ALAS: Achievement for Latinos through Academic Success, in Staying in school. A technical report of three dropout preven­tion projects for junior high school students with learning and emotional disabilities, ed. Helen Thornton (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, 1995), A-1—A-71.
  13. Mary F. Sinclair, Sandra L. Christenson, David L. Evelo, and Christine M. Hurley, “Dropout prevention for youth with disabilities: Efficacy of a sustained school engagement procedure,” Exceptional Children 65, no.1 (1998), 7–21.
  14. Advocates for Children of New York, Advocates for Children’s Project Achieve: A Model Project Providing Education Advocacy for Children in the Child Welfare System (New York, NY: Advocates for Children, 2005).
  15. Foster Youth Services Program, Counseling, Student Support, and Service-Learning Office, 2010 Report to the Legislature and the Governor for the Foster Youth Services Program  (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2010).
  16. Andrea Zeitlin and Lois Weinberg, Preliminary Evaluation of Sacramento County Instruction Case Manager Program (Conducted for the Stuart Foundation’s Ready to Succeed Initiative, 2010).
  17. Andrea Zeitlin, Lois Weinberg, and Christina Kimm, “Improving Education Outcomes for Children in Foster Care: Intervention by an Education Liaison,” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 9, no. 4 (2004), 421-429.
  18. Foster Youth Services Program, Counseling, Student Support, and Service-Learning Office, 2010 Report to the Legislature and the Governor for the Foster Youth Services Program  (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2010).
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