The Role of Education in Foster Care and Adoption

Foster parent looking a Child holding up a drawing

Why Learning Matters for Children in Care

We're facing severe academic declines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 49% of students starting the 2022-2023 academic year were behind grade level in at least one subject.

Children in the foster care system may suffer even more from academic setbacks. Disruptions in their home environment due to new placements and starting over in a different school can negatively affect their academic success.

As a foster or adoptive parent, it's crucial to understand the role of education in foster care. You have a direct impact on their futures.

Here's what you need to know on the subject and why learning matters so much in foster care.

The Importance of Education for Children in Foster Care and Adoption

Receiving an education is critical to a child's future success. The better their education, their chances of securing employment and achieving financial stability are higher.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people aged 25 and older that did not receive a high school diploma have the highest unemployment rates and lowest median weekly earnings.

On the other hand, individuals that received master's, professional, or doctoral degrees had the highest weekly earnings and lowest unemployment rates.

Not all jobs require a college degree, but every job requires learning new skills and undergoing training. Expressing the importance of learning early on helps children understand how to achieve stability.

It's often more challenging for children in the foster care system to keep up with their studies. Stress, environmental disruptions, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness all impact their academic performance.

Frequent school transitions and fewer days foster children spend in school make keeping up with their peers a challenge. Thankfully, you can help them to succeed as a foster or adoptive parent.

Supporting Learning and Academic Success for Children in Care

Educational agencies should promote collaboration between teachers, social workers, and other school professionals. Ideally, teachers will receive special training to help foster care children succeed in their new environment. Teachers and school staff need to understand adopted and foster children face unique challenges due to experiencing trauma, grief, and loss.

Children in the foster care system may be placed in special education, which is only sometimes helpful. Each student should receive an assessment of their capabilities.

Teachers should also prepare the class or take measures to help the foster child to feel welcome. Educators also must learn patience, as it may take time to help an adoptive or foster child catch up with their peers.

Foster parents and teachers should work together to ensure the child's success. Parents should show an interest in their child's academic journey. Ask for reports on the child's behavior, participation, and school records.

Foster parents should also work with the birth parents to help the child adjust and feel more comfortable. The birth parents may have suggestions, such as study methods that worked in the past.

Understanding the Educational Challenges Faced by Children in Foster Care and Adoption

Obstacles such as out-of-home placements increase the number of days that a child in foster care can miss school. It also forces them to adjust to new academic environments.

Kids who begin the school year together have more time to adjust and form connections with their peers. From navigating the hallways to catching up with course material, foster and adopted children must put in more effort to catch up.

This situation can put added stress on a child that's already dealing with trauma.

Foster kids that need help to catch up and understand the material may feel frustrated or left out. They may also need help to form a support network or develop friendships.

Meeting state educational standards become more challenging. If foster kids do well in their academic careers, they may be more likely to graduate.

Sadly, national research shows that kids in the foster care system have a higher risk of dropping out than their peers.

Advocating for Your Child's Educational Needs: Tips for Foster Parents and Adoptive Parents

Help your foster or adoptive children succeed by advocating for educational rights in foster care and adoption. Speak up on their behalf and be interested in their well-being at school.

Talk with educators to learn more about how your child behaves in class. Ask what you can do to help them succeed. Their teachers may suggest study plans or ways for the student to earn extra credit.

Advocating for your child is easier than you might think. Even emailing their teacher or calling to ask questions is an excellent place to start.

Attend parent-teacher conferences research to find out how you can assist them. There are many educational resources available to foster parents.

Learn how to begin advocating for educational rights in foster care and adoption. Speak with other adoptive or foster parents and form connections. Learn how you can make changes in their school system.

Most importantly, talk to your child. Find out what they're going through and what obstacles they face at school.

Many foster children struggle with fitting in or making friends. If this is the case, counseling or therapy may help your child build self-confidence. Finding a tutor or study buddy can help if they struggle with a particular subject.

Building Positive Relationships With Schools and Educators:

A Guide for Foster Parents and Adoptive Parents FAQs

Now you know more about the importance of learning in foster care and adoption. But what if learning to advocate for your child is difficult for you? Perhaps you feel like you're overstepping as a foster parent.

Even forming positive relationships with your child's school helps them succeed. Seeing their educational needs is part of your job as a parent.

These frequently asked questions should help guide you.

What Are the Educational Rights of Children in Foster Care and Adoption?

Virginia children in foster care have the right to immediate enrollment in school. Every school has a liaison for these children. You can learn more about their educational rights here.

How Do Foster Parents and Adoptive Parents Support Their Children's Learning and Academic Success?

Foster and adoptive parents play a significant role in supporting their child's academic success. They can advocate for their children, talk to teachers and school staff, and find resources. They can also teach their kids at home and provide supplemental learning.

For example, learning about financial literacy is a crucial skill to develop.

What Types of Educational Challenges Do Children in Foster Care and Adoption Face?

Education in foster care is far from perfect. Schools may not be on the same page regarding education and training regarding adopted or foster kids. As a result, children may not receive the educational support they need to thrive.

Teachers may not understand the obstacles a foster child faces. They may not take a trauma-informed approach to learning. Foster children may also feel left behind or isolated.

How Can I Advocate for My Child's Educational Needs in the Foster Care or Adoption System?

Look for the teacher's contact information. Call them or email them explaining that you're the foster parent (or adoptive parent) and want to help them succeed.

Ask the teacher if there's anything you can do at home. See if they can provide any extra credit opportunities. Learning outside the classroom can also help foster children catch up.

Talk to the school staff about the education in adoption difficulties children in the foster system face. Sometimes, simply being aware of the issue is enough to cause change.

Try to make learning fun. See if there are any educational games, YouTube videos, or other sources to help them succeed.

Find real-life applications to reinforce what they learn in the classroom. Take them to parks, museums, etc., to make learning enjoyable.

What Types of Educational Resources and Support Are Available for Foster Parents and Adoptive Parents?

Stay in touch with the school liaison and your student's teachers. Join support groups with other foster parents and ask questions or seek advice.

The foster parent training you undergo will give you tips on managing your child's education. Many books and blogs created by adoptive families or foster agencies discuss the challenges you might face.

We have many resources available here at FosterVA!

Start Improving Education in Foster Care and Adoption

You can do a lot as a parent to improve education in foster care and adoption. The first step is to reach out to your child's educators. Become an advocate and work with the school and your child to ensure their success.

We hope this guide will help you in supporting academic success in foster care and adoption.

Are you interested in helping Virginia's foster youth? Learn more about how to become a foster or adoptive parent by reaching out to our parent advocate.

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