Foster Success says the State needs to do more to help Indiana foster youth succeed in school. The comments come after the release of the State’s first annual report on foster youth education outcomes. The report will be discussed at next Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting.
The report was mandated by House Enrolled Act 1314 (HEA 1314), which was approved by the Indiana General Assembly and signed by Governor Eric Holcomb in 2018.
The report is the first effort by the State to track and compile education data for the thousands of children in its own custody. The document shows that Indiana foster youth have far lower graduation rates than other students, higher graduation waiver rates and much higher rates of suspension.
The alarming statistics show that:
- Only 64.6 percent of foster students graduate high school, compared with 88.1 percent of their peers
- Nearly 21 percent of foster youth receive a graduation waiver, compared to 8.3 percent of their peers
- 21 percent of foster youth are suspended each year, compared to 8.9 percent of their peers
- Foster students are expelled at nearly two times the rate of their peers
- Black foster students are expelled at four times the rate of their peers
- Foster students are held back at two times the rate of their peers
- Only 9.1 percent & 28.7 percent of foster students in 10th grade pass the Math and English ISTEP tests respectively
- Only 3.2 percent and 15.9 percent of black foster students in 10th grade pass the Math & English ISTEP tests respectively
Foster Success leads one of 17 sites participating in the national Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, an effort of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, to make sure young people who have been in foster care after their 14th birthdays have the relationships, resources and opportunities they need to thrive.
CEO Brent Kent says the data is eye-opening.
“This data shows that Indiana’s most vulnerable young people are being left behind and demands a response by the legislature,” said Kent. “Without a high school diploma or the support of a family, one in five foster youth are homeless within two years of aging out of foster care. Indiana needs to ensure foster youth are not denied equitable educational opportunity due to their involvement with the child welfare system.”
The law does require the State to develop a plan for the remediation of students in foster care by June 30. Kent believes an even larger plan and more resources for schools are needed to ensure foster youth graduate high school and access college and career training programs.
The overall report is significant for Indiana, and the nation.
“By compiling comprehensive educational data on students in foster care, Indiana has taken an important step toward realizing the potential of young people,” said Leslie Gross, director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative at the Casey Foundation. “We know that investing effectively in education for young people in foster care increases the chance for their successful transition to adulthood and pays dividends for us all in economic gains and a stronger future.”.
The report can be viewed in its entirety here.