In the U.S. today, approximately 400,000 children and youth are in foster care at any given time and each year about 20,000 of these students emancipate (i.e., age out) of foster care. A positive PK-12 education experience has the potential to be a powerful counterweight to the abuse, neglect, separation, impermanence and other barriers these vulnerable students experience. Additionally, participation in and persistence to a postsecondary credential can enhance their well-being, help them make more successful transitions to adulthood, and increase their chances for personal fulfillment and economic self-sufficiency.
National research shows that children in foster care are at high-risk of dropping out of school and are unlikely to attend or graduate from college. A coordinated effort by education agencies and child welfare agencies is necessary to improve the educational outcomes for students in foster care. Fortunately, the last few years have seen important policy, practice, and advocacy advances that address the education barriers and supports needed for these vulnerable students. Links to information about some of these advances can be found below:
Resources for Youth
Foster Care Transition Toolkit [PDF, 1M]
The U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as foster youth and practitioners, developed this Foster Care Transition Toolkit to inspire and support current and former foster youth pursuing college and career opportunities. The toolkit includes tips and resources intended to help foster youth access and navigate social, emotional, educational and skills barriers as they transition into adulthood.
Guidance and Regulatory Information
On June 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released joint guidance to states, school districts and child welfare agencies on the new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for supporting children in foster care. The guidance aims to assist state and local partners in understanding and implementing the new law, and to inform state and local collaboration between educational and child welfare agencies across the nation for the well-being of children in foster care. Of the approximately 400,000 children and youth in foster care, nearly 270,000 children in foster care are school-aged. Data show that foster youth are more likely than their peers to experience a host of barriers that lead to troubling outcomes, including low academic achievement, grade retention and lower high school graduation rates. Children in foster care often face steep challenges to school success, including high rates of mobility. The new protections for children in foster care under ESSA will apply to all children in foster care enrolled in public schools. This joint guidance builds upon a new focus in ESSA on the unique needs of foster youth and will equip local partners with an essential tool for implementing the new foster care provisions in ESSA successfully by December 10, 2016.
Uninterrupted Scholars Act (U.S.A.) [PDF, 202KB]
Guidance on IDEA and Highly Mobile Students [PDF, 80KB]
Postsecondary Education and Training
Related Department of Education Programs