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Published by: Washington State Institute for Public Policy on Dec 22, 2011
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In 2006, the Washington State Legislatureauthorized the statewide implementation of anEducational Advocacy program to help fosteryouth succeed in school. Approximately twoEducational Advocacy Coordinators (EACs) areavailable in each of six regions throughout thestate to assist foster students, parents, teachers,and social workers with education-related issues.The EACs provide information and referralservices, consultation, and direct advocacydesigned to keep foster youth engaged in schooland progress toward graduation. Specifically,advocates may:
assist students with accessing educationsupport and special education services
work to keep students in the same school orimprove transition when a move occurs
work with school on disciplinary matters toaddress problems and maintain enrollment
help with making up high school credits orfinding suitable alternative programs
train caregivers, social workers, andstudents on educational rights andresponsibilities.The 2011 Legislature directed the WashingtonState Institute for Public Policy (Institute) to“examine the child welfare and educationalcharacteristics for foster youth who are served byeducational advocates.” This report discussesthe background of student participants andpresents information on program activity. Thereport, however, does not include a comparisongroup analysis, which is needed to assess theimpact of the program. A final evaluation report(due October 2012) will examine programeffectiveness.
Washington State Institute for Public Policy 
110 Fifth Avenue Southeast, Suite 214
PO Box 40999
Olympia, WA 98504-0999
(360) 586-2677
December 2011
Since 2006, over 3,500 students in foster carehave received assistance from an EducationalAdvocacy Coordinator. The EducationalAdvocacy program was started in order to helpfoster youth maintain enrollment, connect toschool services, and progress academically.The program was first implemented in KingCounty in 2001. Treehouse, the non-profitagency that developed the program model, nowmanages the statewide program under contractwith the Department of Social and HealthServices (DSHS). This includes trainingadvocates, screening referrals, trackingoutcomes, and developing instructional materialfor social workers, caregivers, and educators.The 2011 Legislature directed the Institute to“examine the child welfare and educationalcharacteristics for foster youth who are servedby educational advocates.” During the 2009–10school year, advocates spent nearly 8,200 hoursassisting youth in foster care. This reportdescribes the background and characteristics ofthose students served by advocates. We alsoexamine placement mobility and school changesas well other educational outcomes (i.e. gradepoint average and graduation rate). Our finalevaluation report in October 2012 will addressthe overall effectiveness of the program.
Suggested citation: Burley, M. (2011).
Educational advocates for foster youth in Washington State: Program background and trends 
(Document No. 11-12-3903). Olympia: Washington State Institute forPublic Policy.
Program Participation
Youth in grades K–12 who have been placed inout-of-home care or are receiving services fromthe Department of Social and Health Services(DSHS) Children’s Administration are eligible toreceive services from an Educational Advocate.Typically, a caseworker, foster parent, or socialworker who identifies an education-relatedconcern will make a referral to the program.DSHS contracts with Treehouse, a private, non-profit agency, to coordinate and administer theprogram.
Treehouse first started theEducational Advocacy program throughout KingCounty in 2001.For the statewide program, Treehouse staffscreen the referrals and track progress of theadvocacy efforts. Statewide referrals started in2006, when Treehouse received the contract toreplicate the advocacy program in all six DSHSregions. Each year, between 900 and 1,450students receive assistance from an EACthrough this program (Exhibit 1).
Exhibit 1
Number of Student With Educational Advocate:2006–2010 School Years
SchoolYearStudentsServedAverageDays inProgram
2006–07 1,165 1542007–08 1,445 1402008–09 1,125 1472009–10 915 1382010–11 997 158
Students may remain engaged with anadvocate for several school years. Over thecourse of the study period, there were 3,649students in the program. Exhibit 2 shows thenumber of new entrants by school year.
Due to different selection criteria, participation numbersreported by the program may differ slightly from totalsreported here.
Exhibit 2 
Enrollment Status of Students at Program Entry:2006–2010 School Years
School YearProgramIntakesIntakesWith SchoolRecords
2006–07* 983 7942007–08* 809 6952008–09 619 5462009–10 586 5052010–11 652 n/a
Total 3,649 2,540
* Program eligibility rules changed at the end of the2007–08 school year to give greater priority to youth inout-of-home (foster) care.
Under a data sharing agreement with the Officeof Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)and the DSHS Children’s Administration, wewere able to obtain information on the fostercare and school background of students in theeducational advocacy program.
School datafor students enrolled during the 2010–11 schoolyear were unavailable for this analysis. Wewere able to obtain information for 85 percent(n=2,540) of the students who were servedbefore this school year (see Exhibit 2).We did utilize program information to examinecharacteristics of youth in the study and thosewho could not be included. There were no(statistically) significant differences in gender,age, placement status (foster/group/relative), oreducational status (general/special education)between study and non-study youth. Exhibit 3(next page) shows the total students in thestudy (n=2,540) by grade level, and indicatesthat male students represent a higherpercentage of the program population foryounger students (elementary and middleschool). Males and females are representedequally among high school-age participants.
All study procedures were approved by the DSHSHuman Research Review Board. Program records werematched to school enrollment data by OSPI staff, whoremoved personally identifiable information from theresearch dataset.
Exhibit 3 
Program Participants by Grade and Gender
WSIPP, 2011
Students served by Educational Advocates arealso more likely to be a racial or ethnic minority(Exhibit 4). About 38 percent of K–12 studentsin Washington State have a racial/ethnicbackground other than Caucasian.Approximately half of all participants in theEducational Advocacy program, in contrast, arenon-Caucasian. The racial distribution ofprogram participants is also similar to thebroader population of foster youth inWashington State.
Exhibit 4 
Race/Ethnicity of Program Participants
Race EthnicityProgramParticipantsAll Students
AfricanAmerican409 (16%) 59,270 (6%)American Indian/ Alaska Native228 (9%) 26,506 (2%)Asian 38 (1%) 82,007 (8%)Caucasian 1,315 (52%) 670,651 (62%)Hispanic/Latino 343 (14%) 166,822 (16%)Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander14 (1%) 9,452 (1%)Multiracial 135 (5%) 30,504 (3%)Not Provided 58 (2%) 30,040 (3%)
Total 2,540 1,075,252
Miller, M.. (2008).
Racial disproportionality in Washington State’s child welfare system 
(Document No. 08-06-3901).Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
Among the entire K–12 student population inWashington State, approximately 13 percenthave an identified disability that may requiresupportive services that are established throughan Individual Education Program (IEP). Forfoster youth working with an EducationalAdvocate, 45 percent have a disability that mayrequire an IEP (see Exhibit 5).
Exhibit 5 
Primary Disabilities of Program Participants
Disability StatusTotal(Percentage)
No Disability 1,394 (55%)Disability 1,146 (45%)
Health Impairment 315 (12%)Specific Learning Disability 315 (12%)Serious Behavioral Disability 235 (9%)Developmentally Delayed 102 (4%)Other 179 (7%)
Total 2,540
The federal Individuals with DisabilitiesEducation Act (IDEA) mandates that studentswith disabilities have access to educationalopportunities in the least restrictive environmentpossible.
As these figures indicate, fosteryouth needing an educational advocate have arange of disabilities that may require specialeducation services and accommodations.Educational Advocates help ensure that fosteryouth receive the proper services and supportsas identified in the student’s IEP. Advocatesalso work to establish an IEP for eligiblestudents who may not be receiving services.Detailed information on special educationservices (such as integration of specialeducation students in general educationclasses, disciplinary actions, and improvementsin functioning) will be included in the finalprogram evaluation report (due October 2012).
RCW 28A.155 sets the statutory guidelines for theimplementation of IDEA in Washington State.
Elementary (K-6)n=1,254Middle School (7-8)n=455High School (9-12)n=831

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