Education Advocacy for Children in Care
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In 2010, the Texas Supreme Court established an Education Committee of its Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families to “develop initiatives designed to improve courts and court practice regarding educational outcomes of children and youth in the child protection system.” (5/20/10 Order of the Texas Supreme Court). The Education Committee issued its Final Report on March 31, 2012, Texas Blueprint: Transforming Education Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster Care
. The Committee reached consensus on recommendations that “range from changes to daily practices, modifications to education and child welfare policy, and amendments to Texas’ statutory framework.” (Texas Blueprint at 17). The Education Committee recognized that a collaborative effort among community and legal organizations is key to effecting the needed change. The Education Committee also asserted that its report “is just the beginning of ongoing, long-term efforts” and encouraged “state and local leaders and stakeholders to review the report, work toward implementation of the recommendations, and continue working together to find solutions that will allow Texas’ children and youth in foster care to reach their highest education goals.” (Texas Blueprint at 19).
National organizations and stakeholders have also recognized the critical need to improve education outcomes for foster children. For instance, the American Bar Association Legal Center for Foster Care and Education has identified challenges facing children in foster care nationally, citing studies that children in foster care struggle academically, with higher drop-out rates, lower graduation rates, and lower scores on statewide tests than the general population. Likewise, the National Working Group on Foster Care and Education has indicated its belief that promoting greater national attention to the disparate educational outcomes for youth in foster care is a worthy objective for improving education opportunities and outcomes for those children.
In the 83rd Legislative Session, the Texas Legislature responded to these calls to action by making certain amendments to the Texas Family Code relating to education advocacy for children in foster care. The amendments became effective on September 1, 2013, but the various stakeholders in the child advocacy system impacted by the amendments are struggling to incorporate new procedures and practices to fully meet the legislature’s statutory directives.
Assessing the work that has already been done and the recommendations that have been made and working with community and legal organizations to design effective and innovative means to improve education outcomes for children in foster care are projects clearly within the purview of the mission of the Caruth Institute. Accordingly, the Institute is working to utilize collaborative partnerships with community organizations and professionals to design bold and innovative processes and procedures to improve education outcomes for abused and neglected children in foster care.