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Partner Perspective

Written for The Connection by the Legal Center for Foster Care and EducationLegal Center logo

Collaboration is the key to achieving practice, policy, and cultural changes that support educational stability and achievement for children and youth in care. National CASA and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), together with 22 other national organizations, joined together as the National Working Group on Foster Care and Education. Together, the National Working Group heightens national awareness of the educational needs of children and youth in care, and promotes best and promising practices and reforms across educational, child welfare, and juvenile and family court systems. The National Working Group is facilitated by the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, a project of the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law.

Each of the member organizations of the National Working Group aims to promote:

  • Educational stability for children and youth in foster care
  • Seamless educational transitions for children and youth when school changes do occur
  • High quality educational experiences, expectations and aspirations for young people in foster care
  • Greater national attention to the disparate educational outcomes for young people in foster care 

Each member organization brings unique strengths and interests. Members serve a wide range of constituencies that can contribute to positive educational outcomes and experiences of children and youth in foster care, including foster parents, CASA volunteers, juvenile court judges, child welfare agencies, and others. For example, National CASA has heightened the importance of education for children in foster care in a number of ways, including: authoring articles on education for the National CASA Judges’ Page and other publications; featuring education sessions at the National CASA Conference; and ensuring that educational advocacy is a critical component of all CASA training. NCJFCJ promotes judicial utilization of the education checklist that it has developed, in order to improve education outcomes.

The National Working Group has also been an active advocate on federal policy changes to support the educational needs of children in foster care. The most notable change to federal policy was the passage of the education requirements in the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act.This important child welfare law requires child welfare agencies to work together with schools to ensure education stability for children in foster care. The National Working Group has also supported changes to federal education law to support the education success of children in foster care. Over the past few months, both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate introduced bipartisan bills to amend the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to support easier access by child welfare agencies to education records for children in foster care. These important bills would allow child welfare agencies to obtain the education records of children in foster care to make sure that they are not only enrolled in school, but receiving the necessary supports and services to succeed. 

Recognizing the importance in building partnerships with national educational organizations, the National Working Group formed an Education Advisory Board, composed of 15 national educational organizations. This group, which includes the national membership organizations for school psychologists, teachers and school staff, school social workers, parent teacher associations, school boards, and others, has also committed to prioritizing the educational needs of children in foster care within their own organizations. 

The National Working Group and Education Advisory Board work together to build momentum at the national, state and local level around foster care and education. They work for change at the federal policy level, disseminate materials to advocates throughout the country and ultimately make a difference in the educational outcomes of individual students.

 

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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