Foster care students typically change elementary schools three to four times. According to a 2009 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, they lose four to six months of learning with each move. They also experience trauma as they are shuffled between grandparents or other extended family, group homes, and private foster homes. Many live in homeless shelters for a period.
Given these challenges, Project U-Turn found that out of the 597 foster care students tracked in 2007, 75 percent dropped out.
The new Education Support Center within the Department of Human Services acts as a liaison between the District and child welfare, making sure that elementary foster care students stay at one school and receive needed supports. Foster care students typically enter 7th to 9th grades four to five grade levels behind in reading.
Liza M. Rodriguez, director of the new center, said that coordinating efforts so students remain in one school will make a “huge difference” in their social and academic performance.
Arise Academy, the first public charter high school specifically for foster care students, also offers stability and safety for this vulnerable population.
Arise, which opened in 2009, serves “over-age and under-credentialed” students from 14-21 years, said Jill Davis, board president.
Arise, which is almost at its full capacity of 200 seats, creates a safe haven because even if living conditions change, students stay at the same school. Attendance is enforced with follow-up calls, and mentors and faculty listen to student concerns.
Thomas Jefferson University is opening a school-based behavioral health satellite clinic at Arise this month. All students will take part in groups to deal with the trauma of being without parents or stable caregivers.