Education can be a powerful tool for child welfare-involved youth to overcome their circumstances and become successful adults. Sadly, educational outcomes for young people in care are notoriously poor. Students in foster care have lower standardized test scores, and they repeat grades and are suspended much more frequently than other students. They are significantly over-represented in special education programs, change schools repeatedly and often miss substantial amounts of school. Youth who age out of foster care are more likely to drop out of high school than other young people; most do not enroll in college or other post-secondary programs, and few ever complete a college degree.
Over the last decade, child welfare agencies and advocates have begun to recognize that the students they serve need access to greater educational opportunities, and that education is critically important to child wellbeing, permanency planning and a successful transition to adulthood. In particular, best practices research has consistently identified education advocacy as an effective strategy to improve school stability and educational outcomes for this population of vulnerable youth. This report offers insights from one program, called Project Achieve, which pairs Advocates for Children of New York ("AFC"), a non-profit that provides education advocacy to low-income students in New York City, with local foster care and preventive services agencies. The report explains how Project Achieve works and examines its long-term impact on the children and families served by these agencies, the people who work there and the city's child welfare system itself.