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Innovative FosterEd Project Goes Statewide in Indiana

By Dr. Anita Silverman

A bold NCYL initiative to improve the educational prospects of foster youth in one Indiana county has done so well that it’s been expanded to cover the entire state. The Foster Youth Education Initiative, or FosterEd, will go statewide in time for the 2012-13 school year.

FosterEd was created just three years ago by the National Center for Youth Law. The program, created in response to national statistics highlighting the bleak educational outcomes of foster youth, was launched as a pilot project in Marion County, Indiana. Financial and logistical help came from The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit dedicated to K-12 education reform. Last November, a FosterEd education liaison was installed in the Marion County Department of Child Services (DCS).

Marion County encompasses all of Indianapolis; at any given time, there are about 1,700 children involved with the county’s foster care agency. Between March 2011 and April 2012, DCS served 3,000 youth. About 10,000 foster youth reside throughout the state.

FosterEd: Goals and Operation

FosterEd serves as a bridge between schools, families, and DCS. Its main objective is to create and mobilize a team of people advocating for foster youth at school. Education specialists provide family case managers, teachers, school administrators, foster parents, biological parents, relative caregivers, and others the skills and knowledge to identify foster youth’s educational strengths and to ensure that their educational needs are being met. FosterEd requires that education case plans be prepared and implemented for every foster youth. The program supports these youth as they progress through school; from children in Early Head Start to teens planning for college.

FosterEd has three core functions:

  1. It helps family case managers and their team address issues at school that affect foster youths’ academic performance.
  2. It trains family case managers and parents (both biological and foster) in a variety of matters, including Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), summer education support, and schooling options (magnet, charter, traditional, etc.).
  3. It builds the capacity of schools and DCS to collaboratively support foster youth.

So how does FosterEd work on the ground? “Henry” was struggling in elementary school; the school became worried and contacted FosterEd for help. Henry’s mother had mental health issues, his father had just been released from jail, and the two were engaged in an ugly custody battle, which led to the involvement of DCS.

FosterEd provided an educational liaison to work with the DCS case manager. They had Henry tested to see if he could benefit from special education services., and found that he qualified for an IEP. Henry’s support team, in collaboration with the courts, made sure that Henry would not have to switch schools, even though his living arrangement had changed.

Henry’s school now sees DCS as an active partner in enhancing the educational experience of its students. “We have been so worried about this little guy and I have not known whom to contact,” said the school’s principal. “I … felt good about our meeting and [about the] prospects of getting everyone some additional support and intervention. Thank you [FosterEd] for your quick response and the work you are doing on behalf of the family.”1Since Henry’s case, three other children at the school have been helped by FosterEd.

Overall, more than 60 children have been referred to FosterEd since last November. In a number of other cases, a case manager has asked for the project’s assistance and support, but not for FosterEd to formally join the team.

Local Success, Statewide Expansion

How well has FosterEd fared in Marion County? An evaluation of the program found that it’s been effective in identifying and meeting educational needs, and that FosterEd services and training have yielded substantial benefits. Spurred by these results, DCS is expanding the model to cover the entire state of Indiana by the 2012-13 school year. By the end of this year all of FosterEd’s Marion County foster youth education liaisons will be DCS employees.

A FosterEd statewide manager and 16 regional education specialists will work to ensure that foster children in Indiana receive the educational opportunities they need to succeed in school, and in life. “It is important for us to support these children who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves removed from everything they know,” said James W. Payne, DCS Director. “By making education a priority for these children, and providing access to the educational opportunities they need, they will have a better chance to achieve their goals and dreams.”2

Healthy partnerships, vigorous child advocacy, and a team approach to supporting parents and the child: this innovative formula is the bedrock of FosterEd’s approach. The benefits it generates in academic performance and achievement can change the lives of children and families, not just during school years but over the long term.

FosterEd Indiana

The first eight of 16 education liaisons have joined FosterEd: Indiana, working for the Indiana Department of Child Services. They were sworn in on July 31, 2012 at the Indiana State Capitol building in Indianapolis, Indiana.


FosterEd Indiana

The first eight of 16 education liaisons have joined FosterEd: Indiana, working for the Indiana Department of Child Services. They were sworn in on July 31, 2012 at the Indiana State Capitol building in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Clockwise from the top left: Steve Takacs, Jeff Neumann, Naomi Koeplin, Tyler Small, Jill Russ, Kristina Deters, Sabrina Ellison, Tina Hickey, Dr. Anita Silverman

Clockwise from the top left: Steve Takacs, Jeff Neumann, Naomi Koeplin, Tyler Small, Jill Russ, Kristina Deters, Sabrina Ellison, Tina Hickey, Dr. Anita Silverman

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