Education

The Alliance’s Education Program levels the playing field for children in foster care, or on probation, by ensuring that our clients receive an appropriate education.

What do we do?

The reality is bleak: For example, “Ellie” is born into a home where her father is incarcerated for life and her mother sits Ellie on the toilet, turns on the television, and then goes into the living room to smoke crack cocaine. Ellie sits there all day, every day. While other children are learning, Ellie is ignored. While other children are on the playground, Ellie is pacified by cartoons. On top of all these challenges, Ellie’s mother used drugs during her pregnancy. As a result, Ellie has a learning disability and struggles to relate to anyone. By the time she is removed from her home and placed in a foster case, Ellie is already at a major disadvantage in life and in school, before she even has started kindergarten.

The Alliance is here to stand up for Ellie and every child who has experienced abuse and neglect by advocating for them to receive the education and support they need to heal.

How do we do it?

The Alliance understands that it takes a community to support our children. As a result, our Education Program takes a holistic and collaborative approach with schools in first defining and then addressing the needs of our clients. Our unique approach is keenly drawn from the sentiments of John F. Kennedy when he stated: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But, let us never fear to negotiate.” We provide direct education advocacy for youth, empower youth, caregivers, and other providers through trainings to advocate for the children they serve, and lead local and state efforts in systems reform.

Foster and probation youth experience the poorest education outcomes of any at-risk student population. This is caused by many factors–including significant rates of school instability, trauma, school push-out, and increased rates of learning and social/emotional disabilities.

Although state and federal laws grant foster and probation youth unique education rights to keep them stable in school, these laws are often not followed. As unmet needs escalate, youth in care are also more likely to fall into the school to prison pipeline, as schools increasingly push disabled youth into the criminal justice system rather than providing legally mandated education services. The Alliance ensures youth receive the education support they need and that schools (Foster Youth Education Toolkit) and all court personnel (Court Companion to the Foster Youth Education Toolkit) have the tools necessary to support our youth. Learn more here.

Because the most critical time for intervention is in the first few years of life, the Early Intervention Advocacy Center focuses specifically on overcoming the legal barriers to obtain appropriate developmental and early education assessments and services for children between birth and five years of age. If you are caring for a child five years or younger who you believe has undiagnosed developmental delays or who has diagnosed delays but is not receiving adequate services, contact the Alliance.

Although children in foster care have a much higher incidence of disability (50%) than children in the general population (15%), they are less likely to access quality special education services due to their instability, lack of a knowledgeable education rights holder, and other factors. These children often suffer from undiagnosed learning disabilities and trauma-induced emotional and behavioral challenges. Often, caregivers know their child needs services, but cannot figure out how to navigate the special education bureaucracy. If you are caring for a child in foster care and want to learn more about how to receive special education services, learn more about special education and what a child with a disability looks like here.