Foster Care Is Failing
Lips, Dan, USA TODAY
THE ESTIMATED 518,000 children currently in foster care are among the most at-risk youngsters in American society. Research shows that adults who formerly were in foster care are more likely than the general population to succumb to poor life outcomes. For foster kids, one major obstacle is the difficult transition out of state care into adulthood. Education is a key factor in determining whether a foster child successfully makes this transition. Regrettably, many do not. Compared to their peers, foster children have lower scores on standardized tests and higher absenteeism, tardiness, truancy, and dropout rates.
Policymakers should improve educational opportunities for children in foster care. One promising reform is to provide them with school choice options. For example, offering tuition scholarships could address common problems such as instability and persistent low expectations, as well as encourage schools to tailor educational services to meet these youngsters' unique needs.
In 2006, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the nation's first K-12 tuition scholarship program for foster children. This year, similar legislation was introduced by Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, and Texas. Understanding the need to improve educational opportunities for children in foster care begins by understanding the system itself. The Code of Federal Regulations defines foster care as "24-hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents or guardians." For a variety of reasons, those in foster care have been removed from the homes of their birth families and placed under state care. Some ultimately are returned to their birth families or placed for adoption. Others end up in long-term foster care.
Nationally, roughly half of all foster kids will spend at least one year in foster care, with 20% staying longer than three years and nine percent more than five years. Unlike their peers in traditional families, many foster children do not have an adequate safety net or social network; they cannot rely on parents or other relatives to facilitate a smooth transition out of the home and into adulthood.
Adults who formerly were in foster care are more likely than the general population to be homeless, unprepared for employment, limited to low-skill jobs, dependent on welfare or Medicaid, and convicted of crimes and incarcerated, as well as to succumb to drug and alcohol abuse, or have poor physical or mental health. Women who have …
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Publication information: Article title: Foster Care Is Failing. Contributors: Lips, Dan - Author. Magazine title: USA TODAY. Volume: 136. Issue: 2750 Publication date: November 2007. Page number: 60+. © 2009 Society for the Advancement of Education. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
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