I have been helping kids who have been the victims of foster care abuse for over 20 years and I have seen the challenges they face not just from “being part of the system” but from the emotional and social consequences of the circumstances that landed them there. A recent article in the LA Times titled “Students in foster care face ‘invisible achievement gap” talks about another challenge that children in foster care face, acquiring a proper education. Of course, if you understand how many of these children end up in the system then it’s not so surprising.
Los Angeles County has one of the largest foster care systems in the nation with approximately 18,523 kids in 2012 according to the Center for Social Services Research. Many of these children have suffered tremendous adversity in their youth such as abuse, death of their parents, drug use, gang affiliation and more. In all of these situations it easy to imagine the emotional baggage that comes with such adversity. Kids who experience such tragedies are oftentimes already experiencing a lack of stability in their homes. This lack of stability is often intensified when a child is put into foster care since many early placements are either temporary or take place in group homes. It is not uncommon for these kids to bounce around a few placements every few months or even weeks while the system attempts to provide a stable home for the child. During this period, kids are often taken from the school and friends they know and thrust into a new environment where fitting in brings its own challenges. It’s no wonder that according to the Times “only 37% of foster youths were at grade level in math” and that ” their high school dropout rate in 2009-10 was 8%, more than twice the rate of their statewide peers.” What’s more is that many of these youth overwhelmingly come from minority families who, at least statistically, face more challenges than most non minority middle income families.
I am glad that the Times is making a point of identifying the academic challenges for children in foster care because doing so identifies a need to provide additional resources for our most vulnerable members of our society. However, we still need continue to search for solutions that identify at risk youth and provide resources accordingly so as to try and mitigate the likelihood of the child entering foster care to begin with. While we cannot save every child from this system we can certainly understand the challenges all of our foster youth face growing up in such a system. Helping these youth overcome these challenges is not only the right thing to do but also benefits us all in the long run by helping them become productive adults.
You can read the full article at the LA Times site here: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-foster-education-20131014,0,3257218.story