Keeping them safe is not enough: foster youth deserve an education lifeline

Contact: Teri Moran
Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families

3 p.m. news conference, May 3, Texas Supreme Court Courtroom

Placing children in foster care might remove them from abuse or neglect, but keeping them in foster care often means a life filled with failures, especially educational failures, partly because they often move from home to home.

That’s the conclusion of a report to be released May 3 that offers a blueprint identifying dozens of ways schools, courts and social workers can help foster kids perform better in school, keep them there until they graduate from high school and prepare them to go on to college.

The report is the conclusion of a select committee of judges and Texas leaders in education and Child Protective Services appointed in 2010 by the Supreme Court of Texas. The report was for the Court’s Permanent Judicial Commission for Children Youth and Families, chaired by Justice Eva Guzman.

The report will be released at a 3 p.m. news conference in the Supreme Court Courtroom in Austin and is the culmination of almost two years of work.

“While there are often more challenges than opportunities in how we meet the needs of our children and youth in care,” Justice Guzman said, “we must strive to provide for these kids as we would our own.”

Justice Guzman praised the efforts of District Judge Patricia Macias from El Paso, who chaired the 14- member Education Committee, its members and the Children’s Commission Assistant Director, Tiffany Roper, for developing concrete strategies to change the system. 

Studies show children in foster care score lower on standardized tests, are more likely to repeat a grade, be truant, suspended or expelled and, finally, give up and drop out of school. Those who grow up in foster care have an increased risk as adults of homelessness and unemployment, chemical dependency, physical- and mental-health problems, and winding up in jail.

"We can no longer allow their education to fall through the cracks," District Judge Patricia Macias said. 

Foster kids fall behind because changing schools means their coursework changes, credits don't always transfer, and school records don't keep up with them, causing enrollment delays. Education Committee members worked for one and a half  years identifying numerous barriers in their respective organizations – courts, Child Protective Services and schools – and proposing practical ways to remove or overcome them.   

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