Support is Critical for Foster Students, Our Neediest Students

Imagine being a child removed from birth parents and/or separated from siblings. Imagine being that child, trying to keep up academically, socially, and emotionally while transitioning to a new school, and new foster parents. Then, repeating the experience. Sometimes, over and over.

“Typically, foster youth are an invisible population. They are invisible because of a significant amount of transiency, the movement that they experience going from school to school, district to district,” said Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D.

Dr. Escobedo has witnessed first-hand the positive impact of enveloping foster youth with support services. In CVESD, there are currently 97 foster youth, a figure that can fluctuate. Social workers’ services are provided weekly and occur on an individual, small group, or whole classroom basis. They work in partnership with a variety of community agencies to support the needs and success of foster students.

“What we know is that before these students can academically advance, their social and emotional needs have to be met,” Dr. Escobedo said. “They need to belong to a social network in their school so they can feel supported, and adjust to their new environment. Then, they’ll have a better chance to succeed academically.”

2016-foster-youth-guardian-scholars

 CVESD social workers share a moment with students in the Guardian Scholars Program, who are former foster youth now working to obtain a college degree. The social workers collaborated with partner organizations to take foster students on campus visit to San Diego State University last spring.

CVESD’s social workers collaborated with partner organizations to take foster elementary students on a visit last spring to San Diego State University.

 

With the passage of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in 2013, California became the first state to commit to improving the educational outcomes of foster students. Students who are placed into the foster care system are there because they have been physically/emotionally abused or neglected.

To enhance its services to foster students, CVESD allocated $454,496 in its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) for the 2016-17 school year. The LCAP is similar to a budget, except it covers a three-year period. The LCAP spells out how revenue from the new funding formula will be used by school districts to meet student needs. Districts with high enrollment of target groups such as English Learners, students from low socio-economic households, and foster youth receive additional funding.

CVESD used some of its LCAP dollars to hire four school social workers, who provide direct social and emotional services to foster youth depending on a student’s specific, identified needs.

CVESD social workers facilitate Student Success Plan Meetings within four weeks of a foster student enrolling in the District. Members at these meetings include: the assigned county caseworker, the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), the Educational Rights holder, foster parents, biological parents (as decided by the county caseworker), the assigned teacher, the school principal, and the school psychologist.

“Our children have been through a great deal of stress in their young lives,” said Leticia Rodriguez, a CVESD social worker. “One thing we know is that a positive school experience can make a world of a difference. We are constantly consulting and collaborating with teachers, school staff, child welfare social workers, court-appointed special advocates and other community agencies. Our job is to make sure our kids have the support they need academically, socially, and emotionally. We know that with the right support our foster children will grow up to be anything they set their minds to.”

Test scores for CVESD’s foster youth show dramatic improvement in English-Language Arts and Mathematics—nearly double digit gains in year-over-year comparisons. “Part of it is because, of course, the excellent instruction from our amazing teachers. We also need to give credit to our social workers, who have been diligent in providing the necessary social and emotional assistance crucial to a foundation for academic success,” Dr. Escobedo said.

Consider the fifth-grade student who started class at his new school in CVESD with “hoodie” pulled over his head, and head face down on his desk. He could not face his classmates, could not look them in the eyes. He was “too broken” from the abuse he’d suffered. Today, the hoodie remains but his head is off the desk; he can face his classmates. Academic progress has been slow but steady. “It’s a long road ahead,” Dr. Escobedo said. “The good news is that he’s not on that road alone. We’re there for him.”

 

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