May is National Foster Care Month, which is an initiative of the Children’s Bureau, a sector of the Administration for Children and Families. This year’s campaign will focus on acknowledging the work of foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and educators who help ensure stability for children in foster care. Additionally, it is a time to renew one’s commitment to supporting youth in foster care by “strengthening minds and uplifting families.” This theme emphasizes the importance of taking a comprehensive and culturally responsive approach to meeting all needs of this population, including mental and behavioral health.
According to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), “children in foster care face many educational barriers, including high mobility, increased incidences of trauma, and mental, behavioral and physical health conditions.” The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) created guidelines to promote educational stability and improved outcomes for youth in foster care. State and federal guidelines as well as resources for educational professionals supporting children in foster care are available on the Ohio Department of Education website.
With over 16,000 students in the foster system in Ohio, school districts need to regularly evaluate their practices to ensure that every child entering their school is handled with care. Some questions to consider when evaluating effectiveness are:
- Is the district in contact with foster parents and the child welfare case worker?
- What is the transition process for incoming students?
- Are there protocols and procedures for responding to highly mobile students?
- How is the district supporting the whole child in attending to needs such as attendance, trauma, and behavioral health support?
The ODE has a variety of tools to ensure compliance as well as best practices for educational and child welfare professionals, including enrollment checklists and available presentations to utilize for staff professional development. Presentations contain specific information for school enrollment staff, district points of contact, foster care liaisons, transportation coordinators, and caseworkers. Additionally, the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio (ESC of NEO) offers professional networking opportunities for School Counselors, School Social Workers, Family and Community Engagement Coordinators, and other professionals addressing the needs of the whole child.
When reflecting on foster care month and the responsibilities of adults, remember the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is truly a collaborative effort of adults and community members to provide a safe, stable, and healthy environment for all children, including those who are most vulnerable.
For questions or additional information about procedures for students in the foster care system, please contact Family and Community Project Liaison, Carrie Sullivan, at [email protected]
Additional resources are listed below: