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Students in Foster Care

How a school counselor can support and improve educational outcomes

500,000 children are in foster care in the U.S.


3 to 6 times more likely to have emotional, behavioral, and developmental issues Score 15 to 20% lower on achievement test Twice as many have repeated a grade, changed schools and are enrolled in special education Only 60% graduate from high school
U.S Department of Health and Human Services Administration for children and Families (2009)

Oregon Statistics
In 2009 there were 5,833 children served in family foster care.
64.8%placed due to physical abuse. 50% due to parental drug or alcohol use. 46.4% who entered foster care had 4 or more reasons for home removal

Ages/Gender:
39% 0-5 31.3% 6-12 29.6% over 13 years Male 50.9% Female 49.1%

Medical, cognitive, physical, social, and emotional issues


Ambiguous Loss Disenfranchised Grief High teen pregnancy rates Depression PTSD Social Phobia, panic syndrome, generalized anxiety disorders Complex trauma

Issues seen at school


Children in foster care change schools on average 3 times per year and it's not abnormal for them to experience 7 transitions. Every time a child changes schools they lose 4-6 months of academic achievement.

Difficulties in social interaction Deficits in academic areas (reading and writing) 40% eligible for special education services. 70% if you count mental health issues. Low self-esteem Higher drop-out rates Problems with organizational skills Low standardized test scores and grades

Behavior and emotional challenges


Difficulty getting excited or involved in school/community activities. Attachment issues, some detached while others clingy. May withdrawal from adults or become unresponsive. Youth in foster care have higher rates of discipline problems than their peers, and 24% have been suspended or expelled at least once, compared with a national rate of 7%

What improves outcomes for youth in foster care


"Lack of research in child welfare literature regarding the efficacy of support services offered to youth in foster care as a specific cohort" (William 2011). Evidence and research shows that mentoring and social skills training are effective in improving post school outcomes for at-risk students including those in foster care.

Mentoring: Provides a protective factor for youth at risk including those in foster care. Must be long term and stable.
Social skills: Tangible benefit of mentoring Four main areas of social development: Self-relatedness Environmental behaviors task-related behaviors interpersonal behaviors

What can school counselors do?


Be aware of who is in foster care! Plan to accommodate as they transition into your school Be an advocate for the student: set tone of consistency and stability Connect them with resources if needed Promote involvement in school activities Don't give up when they express negative behavior Groups (communication skills, self-esteem) Promote strengths and belief that their actions can make a difference, set high expectations. Refer out for mental health services can often offer best chance for continuity

Review the student's records (you may have to hunt these down!) Make sure they are in appropriate classes

for skill level. Assess skill level within first few days. Incomplete records? Potential loss of credit? Make credit recovery available. Encourage foster parents involvement.

Best Practices cont'd

How to support classroom teachers


Structure is important, daily routines promote sense of stability. Understand that students may have difficulty completing some assignments (family tree)

Be patient and consistent, they may test trust and expect to be failed.

Resources
The casey family www.casey.org/ToolsandResources Foster Club www.fosterclub.org Stories of hope, alumni run. Way to connect with mentors and deal with the stigma of being in foster care. The National Council on Independent Living www.ncil.org

Local Resources
The Inn Home Cascadia Mental Health Big Brother Big sister

References