For the thousands of foster youth in Arizona, barriers to learning are frequent. Education is interrupted by multiple home and school moves and other inconsistencies that make focusing on anything else challenging. It’s no surprise that among at-risk sub-groups, foster youth have some of the lowest graduation rates.
That’s where FosterEd Arizona comes in. An organization dedicated to improving graduation rates and life outcomes for children in foster care, FosterEd is helping these vulnerable youth make great educational strides.
The group understands that all foster youth should have an Education Champion who can support the student’s long-term education success. Using a completely unique model, FosterEd ignites supports within students’ circles. An education team of engaged adults (family members, teachers, child welfare caseworkers, and other important adults) convened by FosterEd helps develop an ongoing education plan based on each student’s academic strengths and needs. FosterEd youth development specialists embedded in high schools and the Department of Child Safety to ensure that students are aided on all fronts.
FosterEd engages with preschoolers through college-aged students in different ways, depending on their unique needs. A quick response team may work with students for 4-6 months. They can resolve simpler, more immediate needs, such as transportation or barriers to school registration. An intensive team provides long-term support for high schoolers and stays with students as long as needed. In addition to personal coaching, students benefit from regular meetings with their education team. Meetings are student-led, to help them take control of their future. Students benefit from guidance on everything from college applications to goal setting. Through this model, FosterEd staff help youth become self-empowered advocates, and help create a culture that recognizes that youth deserve to have their voices respected and included in the decisions that impact their lives.
What started in Pima County has been so successful that it has expanded direct services to Maricopa and Yavapai Counties, and advocacy to a statewide level through legislative mandate. The FosterEd approach has been shown to improve attendance and graduation rates for students in foster care. They served nearly 400 students throughout the state last year alone. And these youth engaged with over 300 parents/caregivers, nearly 300 child welfare specialists and attorneys, over 200 school staff, and over 300 behavioral health professionals.
Thanks to this support, more foster youth than ever are completing high school and moving into higher education, which is critical for long-term success. Better yet, school staff are learning how to support foster youth and how to provide trauma-informed care. In a state where just half of high school graduates go on to higher education, programs like this are critical to achieving the Arizona Education Progress Meter goal of improving this to 70 percent by 2030.
For more success stories from across Arizona, visit the Expect More Excellence Tour.