INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A bill being considered a the statehouse would push the Indiana Department of Education and the Department of Child Services to more closely track how foster children are doing in schools around the state.
House Bill 1314 proposes a requirement for IDOE to create an annual report showing education outcomes for foster youth, a group at risk of falling behind.
Foster kids face challenges when it comes to their education like being moved around and sometimes having to repeatedly switch schools.
But, a spokesperson for IDOE said there is no data currently available to show how many of these children are graduating on time. The spokesperson noted the department began gathering this kind of information this school year.
“Right now, we have a foster child-sized crack in Indiana’s education system,” said Brent Kent, CEO of Indiana Connected by 25 which advocates for foster youth. “The more often they change schools, the less likely they are to graduate. They sometimes will be taking courses out of sequence. Sometimes, they’ll take the same course multiple times at different schools.”
Brent said HB 1314 will help the state see where foster children may be struggling academically.
“It’s important we know what the data is and we build specific strategies to support our foster youth,” Kent said.
State Rep. Dale DeVon (R-Granger) authored the bill.
“We have an obligation to ensure our foster kids receive the support needed to succeed in their academic careers,” DeVon said. “Students going through difficult situations need extra help to make sure they don’t slip through the cracks of our education system. This bill could result in us developing tools on how to better serve students in foster care.”
Demetrees Hutchins is a former foster child who recalls the struggles she faced to complete her education.
“For me, and a lot of other foster youth, the escape from that trauma was school,” she said.
She said she spent her childhood in nine foster homes and five group homes. She eventually emancipated herself and earned six degrees, including her PhD.
“The only way I was going to make sure I didn’t repeat the cycles of dysfunction and poverty and everything I grew up with, I needed to get my education,” Hutchins said.
As an adult, she now hopes she can prevent current foster children from facing the same challenges she did.
“We just need the state to step up, be the prudent parent they are supposed to be for these children and make sure – if anything – they obtain their education,” Hutchins said.
HB 1314 made it out of committee last week with a recommendation to pass. It’s expected to have its second reading this week. A spokesperson for IDOE said they have been in contact with the bill author about some amendments they would like to see.