Working to transform the child welfare system.

How Foster Care Involvement Affects Educational Outcomes 

In September 2020, Partners for Our Children completed a new report about educational outcomes for students whose lives are impacted by the foster care system.

Below please find a summary of the findings, with the complete report here.

Students involved in the foster care system comprise a diverse and vulnerable group of learners with complex educational needs. Experiencing foster care is associated with academic struggles such as high school mobility, lower academic achievement, heightened experiences of exclusionary school discipline, and decreased school completion and access to postsecondary  education. This report uses state-level administrative data from Washington State to evaluate the educational outcomes of students involved in the foster care system across several key educational benchmarks. The results indicate that students involved in foster care in Washington State experience disproportionately less educational success than their peers who are not involved in foster care.

  • Students involved in foster care are more mobile: out-of-home placements increase the frequency of mid-year school transitions and decreased the number of days students spend in school during the academic year.
  • Students in foster care experience exclusionary school discipline at more than three times the rate of their same-grade peers.
  • Students involved in foster care meet state standards in math, science, and English/language arts at less than half the rate of their same-grade peers.
  • Students involved in foster care are less likely to graduate from high school.
  • Students involved in foster care have substantially lower rates of postsecondary education entrance.

The results from this report suggest that the school experiences among students involved in the foster care system are often beset by multiple challenges that have potential to impose barriers to school success. Experiencing child maltreatment and instability generate and intensify academic struggles. Lack of school stability often undermines the potential for school to function as a location to access supportive resources and relationships crucial to healthy psychosocial and academic development. It is crucial that child welfare agencies, schools, and community partners evaluate educational disparities and redouble efforts to support the school success of students involved in foster care. Additional services and support are crucial for educational success. Students in foster care need ongoing mentorship and strong advocates to ensure they received appropriate accommodation for their educational needs throughout their school experiences. This report recommends that:

  • Child welfare agencies reevaluate the use of out-of-home placements and take additional steps to improve placement stability when out-of-home placements are necessary.
  • Child welfare agencies build stronger collaborations with school systems to better support students and increase school stability.
  • Schools reduce the use of exclusionary school discipline and develop trauma-informed disciplinary policies.
  • Child welfare agencies implement increased upstream educational supports for students that provide educational continuity and greater support.