The Effects Of Foster Care On Children And Their Education

People all over the world are forced to live in deplorable conditions, and there is not always something that can be done to help these individuals. Unfortunately, children are often the victims of circumstance, and they have to find a way to survive in their surroundings. Thankfully, there are resources out there that are meant to help children, one of these being foster care. Foster care is a temporary living situation for children whose parents cannot take care of them in the way that they need. Children who end up in foster care may be placed in kinship care, which means that the child is living with someone that they have an established relationship with. Generally, this person is a family member. They may also live with foster families or in group facilities. In the United States of America, roughly 270,000 school-aged youth were in foster care at the end of 2017. That means that nearly four percent of the children in the United States were in foster care when these statistics were recorded, and that refers to anyone under the age of eighteen. There are no limits to the variety of ways the foster care system can affect a child. The child’s education is one of the most important ways they can be affected. This is important for a number of reasons, and children in foster care tend to struggle significantly more than their peers with more traditional home lives in many areas including their grades, frequent school moves, and whether or not they decide, or are able, to pursue higher education.

Placement in foster care typically occurs due to the decline of caregiving in the child’s home. Although this is typically why children are in placement, that is not always the case. Sometimes parents choose to relinquish their rights because they do not want their children to have to suffer due to ongoing family issues such as addiction, illness, or financial struggles. Almost half of the children in foster care are there for at least a year, if not longer. During this time, children endure many negative experiences, which include but are not limited to prolonged separation from family, disrupted relationships, and frequent transitions. Because of this, many children in foster care typically have family structures distinguished by unstable relationships. All of this instability regarding a child’s family structure has the potential to affect how well a child performs in school.

Children begin learning at a young age, and once they begin school, they have already passively learned a lot of information from the people around them. This can be problematic because when children end up in foster care, typically, they lacked an enriching home life. There is a negative association between foster care and early learning skills. Not only did these kids have to go through abuse and neglect from their biological families, there are times when foster families are not much better (Lane, 2017). When a child’s home life is toxic, it is often reflected in how they perform academically. These children have lower graduation rates and are more likely to have to repeat a grade. This suggests that their home lives greatly affect what they experience in school, including grades.

School is a struggle for many children, but youth in the foster care system have a significantly more difficult time with their grades than many of their peers. Children who are in and out of foster home placements have lower reading and math skills than the general population (Berger, Cancian, Han, Noyes, & Rios-Salas, 2015). These students also have grade point averages that are lower than other students, even including their homeless peers. This can be from a lack of consistent help at home with studying, combined with inconsistent attendance, the stress of constant moves, and mental health issues as a result of abuse or neglect.

Children in foster care and special education also earn fewer credits towards graduation compared to other students (Geenen & Powers, 2006). Children involved with Child Protective Services (CPS) experience poorer achievement than those who do not have experience with CPS. This is probably due to the unpredictability that comes with foster care. There is not a significant difference between children involved with CPS; they all seem to perform about the same. Evidence suggests that children perform worse in early placement, or in shorter placements, than when they are in a home for a longer period. This indicates that children are affected by instability, probably more than many people realize. Youth in foster care also tend to score lower on state achievement tests, and sometimes they are not even included in the exams.. Many students take alternative tests which means that they are not included in the statistics for the standardized tests.

Due to the struggles these children often face in school, there is a good chance that they will be in some form of special education. Children who are in foster care go through many struggles regarding education, and often they need extra support in the classroom. Foster youth are more likely to be enrolled in special education than other children. School climate is the quality and character of school life and it reflects the norms, goals, values, and more. Many people believe that supportive school environments can potentially counteract the effects of adverse home experiences. These are the kids who need carefully designed and developmentally supportive school environments that promote their wellbeing because they often lack this kind of stimulation at home. Unfortunately, there are many instances where foster parents want to be involved, but do not have the legal right to participate in the foster child’s special education. There are various laws in place that are meant to help these children when the people in their lives cannot. One such law is the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was established in 2015, and it reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The ESSA is meant to ensure that all students have equal opportunities. The previous version of the law is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB was a significant step forward for the education system in this country, but the requirements of NCLB became increasingly unworkable for school districts and teachers. The Obama administration recognized the struggles educators were having with No Child Left Behind, so that was when it was decided that the goal should be focusing on adequately preparing children for higher education and careers. The Every Student Succeeds Act was the first step to making sure this happens. The ESSA improves educational stability for youth in foster care which includes the requirement of state agencies to ensure that youth in foster care remain in their current school unless it is out of their best interest. This helps prevent unnecessary school transfers that add extra stress. Many school districts do not teach the same exact curriculum in every grade, so this helps prevent students from falling behind. Even though the ESSA prevents students from switching schools as much, there are still many children who end up transferring.

Children in foster care are about three times more likely to switch schools than their peers (Pears, Kim, Buchanan, & Fisher, 2015). Not only do these children move from school to school, they also move from home to home. The majority of school moves for youth in foster care co-occur with change in their home placement. Children in foster care are about four and a half times more likely to move during the school year, and they are about four times more likely to switch school districts. It is already stressful enough for school age children to be away from their family, but these kids also do not get to have consistency with their education. All of this creates chaos for children that can be harmful, and many of them feel like nobody cares. One of the ways children in these situations make their voices heard is by acting out.

Although it isn’t the case for all of them, many foster children negatively act out because they want people to pay attention to what they are trying to say. There is a negative association between foster care and socioemotional competence. Socioemotional competence is the ability to interact with others, self-regulate emotions and behavior, communicate effectively, and solve problems. Many individuals assume that children in foster care are badly behaved, even before getting to know the child. The number of times a child switches schools is also associated with poor academic and socioemotional competence. People assume it is because the child is bad, but often fail to understand that transferring schools is out of the child’s control. There is a positive association between foster care and behavioral issues. This stigma towards youth in foster care often leads to a good deal of school discipline.

Many students in foster care have multiple discipline events, and most result in suspensions or expulsions. Youths that live apart from their siblings are more likely to experience school disciplinary events than those who live with their siblings. Living in a non-kin placement does not significantly increase the odds of school disciplinary events versus placement with kinship care. The more school instability that a child experiences increases the odds of experiencing school discipline. The likelihood of school discipline occurring also goes up with each grade level. About sixty-six percent of school discipline events involve males, and sixty-five percent of the foster youth disciplined were students of color. Students with disabilities are also more likely to be disciplined. Many youths in foster care are simply misunderstood.

One such youth was John Seita. John was in foster care from eight to eighteen years old. Seita was unsure about what he wanted to do with his life once he aged out of the foster care system. He did not even know about college until he was around fifteen years old. He knew some child care workers at an orphanage, and he wanted to be like them, so he went to college. College was a hard time for him because of the lack of support. With no support he struggled academically, financially, and even socially. Since he had nowhere to go during breaks, he was stressed and felt lonely. After a challenging start to life, John Seita now works as an associate professor of social work at Michigan State University and he has created a program that provides support to youth previously placed in foster care so that they will not have the same struggles he had.

Aging out of foster care can be taxing, but it can still be manageable with help. Once a child ages out they do not qualify for many resources and supports. Social workers and case workers help these individuals until they learn how to navigate resources on their own. Many of these kids are warned about the aging out process a year to six months in advance of when they are supposed to age out. Things like college, living arrangements, finances, health insurance, and much more are discussed. Many of these kids were referred to other programs that they qualify for, such as social service programs, as well as educational and training voucher programs. Many of these programs were created to encourage individuals to attend a college or university.

Youth formerly in foster care are more likely to discontinue postsecondary education. This most likely is a result of the lack of steady support these children have throughout their lives. Approximately thirty percent of youth formerly in foster care attend college (Watt, Seoyoun, & Garrison, 2018). The experiences that these individuals went through with their family of origin often influence their decision to go to college. Many of them wanted to do everything they could so that they do not repeat what they went through while growing up. There are also many individuals who feel like they have to prove that they can be successful, so they choose to attend college because that is widely seen as a successful endeavor. Tuition and fees can halt any students plans to attend a college or university, but there are assistance programs that provide help with this.

Many students choose to go to school in a state that provides tuition and fee waivers for former foster youth to get a higher education (Watt, et al., 2018). There are times when youth must choose between a school that they really want and assistance because not everywhere provides those supportive services for former foster care youth. These waivers help kids live out their dreams and achieve their goals. This assistance is also helpful because many of these individuals do not have savings. Without any money saved, higher education is expensive. In many cases these waivers are the reason a child can even entertain the idea of going to college. While there are resources that provide steady support for college expenses, the success of these students depends on much more than finding funds to pay for tuition and books.

The success of youth formerly in foster care that go for higher education is influenced by many factors. Having supportive relationships helps these individuals be more successful in college. These relationships can be with faculty, peers, social workers, and many other individuals in the community. A variety of supportive relationships is most beneficial, and that can include on-campus connections or continued support from previous connections. Larger support networks are important for youth formerly in foster care because they may have trouble developing relationships with others. They can help students feel like they can be successful, and that they are worthy of the degree they are pursuing. The community can provide structure and it can help compensate for challenges in their lives. A new setting like college can help students work through various challenges and issues in their lives.

School is a place where many of these individuals find a haven that provides a supportive place that they can escape to. Many foster care youths aspire to go to college, but life has a way of getting in the way. Substance abuse and a lack of health insurance are just a few reasons why these kids do not always get to follow their dreams, but many of them are resilient and strive to remain in school. These children are also more likely to become involved in criminal activities which can be problematic for certain degree paths. The students who receive some form of college preparation services are more likely to enroll in higher education than those who did not receive services. Even with the services, former foster care youth still struggle in various ways.

Youth formerly in foster care have reported that they experience social isolation in college as a result of their time in foster care. Many youth feel uncomfortable disclosing that they were in foster care, which is problematic for them because they can miss out on resources available to them. There are misconceptions of foster care youth and the struggles they face regarding whether they should reveal that they were in foster care or not. Mental health issues can also worsen a person’s feelings of isolation. Many campuses host events that are meant to include families of students and be fun and happy, but often cause anxiety and feelings of marginalization in former foster youth. While the foster care system helps many children get away from bad situations, it can also negatively impact those children. Some children just want to go home, even if home is dangerous or unpleasant.

While the foster care system serves a necessary function in removing kids from bad situations, it is clear that ending up in the system has adverse effects on children and their education. A large minority of the child population in this nation are in foster care, and it has been observed that foster care adds unneeded stress in a child’s life, which is difficult to manage, even when the child is in a good placement. The variety of placements allows children to be put in an environment that best fits their needs, but it is still hard for these individuals to admit to being a youth in foster care due to the reactions they receive from those around them. Foster care is just one of the resources available to help children, and society should not condemn these youth because of their circumstances. 

16 December 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now