Education offers children in the child welfare and justice systems a chance to develop the skills they need to become successful adults, as well as develop a sense of security. Sadly, students in both systems are more likely than their peers to be absent or truant,1 face disciplinary action,2 require evaluation and remedial services,3 perform below grade level,4 qualify for special education services,5 and drop out of high school.6,7 In collaboration with partner organizations, Juvenile Law Center engages in vigorous federal and state-level advocacy work.
We also offer technical assistance and trainings as well as develop publications for professionals in the legal, child welfare, and education fields, with an emphasis on the important role of cross-system collaboration. Juvenile Law Center works to address the education crisis faced by court-involved youth by supporting policies that:
Through an Equal Justice Works Fellowship sponsored by Greenberg Traurig LLP, Juvenile Law Center has been focusing on removing barriers to school success for youth in residential settings—such as group homes and residential treatment facilities—who often face the toughest educational challenges. Visit our Education of Children in Residential Facilities in Pennsylvania page to review the legal framework setting out the education rights of youth placed in children's institutions in Pennsylvania.
In September 2012, we worked with Education Law Center-PA to develop "Meeting the Educational Needs of Students in the Child Welfare System": tools for educators, school administrators, and counseling staff to understand the issues youth in the foster care system face, and to identify simple interventions that can make a difference helping youth in care succeed in school. These tools are supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council.
1 Zingraff, Matthew T., Jeffrey Leiter, Matthew C. Johnsen, and Kristen A. Myers. “The Mediating Effect of Good School Performance on the Maltreatment-Delinquency Relationship.” Journal of Research in Crime & Delinquency 42.1 (1994): 62-91. Web. ; see also Children and Family Justice Center of Northwestern School of Law, Illinois, et. al. “In School, The Right School, Finish School: A Guide to Improving Educational Opportunities for Court-Involved Youth.” Philadelphia: National Childrens’ Law Center, (2005): 28. Web.
4Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). “Youth’s Needs and Services.” Juvenile Justice Bulletin April 2010: 1-10. Web.; see also McCroskey, Jacquelyn, D.S.W., & Carrie Watson, “Research on the Educational Experiences of Dependent and Delinquent Youth.” L.A. County Education Coordinating Council, 2005. Web. citing Lynn J. Meltzer et al., “An Analysis of the Learning Styles of Adolescent Delinquents”, Journal Learning Disabilities 17. (1984):600 and L.A. County Office of Education, Juvenile Court and Community Schools, School Accountability Report Card (2001-02).
5Tulman, Joseph B., and Douglas M. Weck. “Shutting Off the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Status Offenders with Education-Related Disabilities”, New York Law School Law Review 54. (2009-2010): 875, 882. Web. ; see also McCroskey & Watson, supra note 5, citing T. Rowand Robinson & Mary Jane K. Rapport, Providing Special Education in the Juvenile Justice System, 20 Remedial & Special Educ. 19, 19 (1999); see also David Osher, Anju Sidana & Patrick Kelly, Improving Conditions for Learning for Youth Who Are Neglected or Delinquent (2008), available at http://www.neglected-delinquent.org/nd/resources/spotlight/cflbrief200803.asp.
6Neild, Ruth Curran & Robert Balfanz. Unfulfilled Promise: The Dimensions and Characteristics of Philadelphia’s Dropout Crisis 2000-2005. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Youth Transitions Collaborative eds., 2006. 37. Print.; see also McCroskey & Watson, supra note 5, at 3 citing Dunham, Roger G. & Geoffrey P. Alpert, “Keeping Juvenile Delinquents in School: A Prediction Model”, Adolescence 22. (1987): 45. Web. (stating that only 20 to 40% of youth in the juvenile justice system earn a diploma or GED).
7National Working Group on Foster Care and Education. Fact Sheet: Educational Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster and Out-of-Home Care. Casey Family Programs, 2008. Web. 25 May 2011.
Last updated December 2011
1 in incarcerated 8 youth are labeled as mentally retarded.
Mears, Daniel P., and Laudan Y. Aron. "Addressing the Needs of Youth with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System: the Current State of Knowledge." Urban Institute. Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, Nov. 2003. Web. May 2011.
In one study, over half of youth in juvenile detention have not completed the eighth grad and two-thirds of those leaving formal custody do not return to school.
Roy-Stevens, Cory. "Overcoming Barriers to School Reentry." National Criminal Justice Reference Service. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Oct. 2004. Web. May 2011.
Fewer than 20% of male inmates 25 years old or younger have a high school diploma or GED.
Uggen, Christopher, and Sara Wakefield. "Young Adults Reentering the Community from the Criminal Justice System: the Challenge of Becoming an Adult." University of Minnesota. University of Minnesota, 4 May 2003. Web. May 2011.
In 2007, nearly 40% of foster care youth, who had been in the system between one and two years, had moved homes at least 3 times.
"Child Welfare Outcomes, 2004-2007 Report to Congress Safety Permancy and Well-being the Children's Bureau of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services." Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,. 31. Web. May 2011.
Studies have found that delinquent youth are more than seven times as likely to show a history of adult unemployment and welfare dependence than non-delinquent youth.
Sampson, Robert J., Laub, John H. "Crime and Deviance Over the Life Course: The Salience of Adult Social Bonds." American Sociological Review 55.5 (1990): 609-627. Web.
In one study, over half of youth in juvenile detention have not completed the eighth grade and two-thirds of those leaving formal custody do not return to school.
C. Roy-Stevens, Overcoming Barriers to School Reentry. (Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Preventino, 2004).
For male foster youth, instability in placement increases the risk that youth will become delinquents.
Ryan, JP, and Testa, MF. "Child Maltreatement and Juvenile Delinquency: Investigating the Role of Placement and Placement Instability" Children and Youth Services Review 27.3 (2005): 227-249. Web. May 2011.
83% of Foster Youth are held back by the third grade.
Honoring Emancipated Youth. "Barriers Facing Foster Care Youth: National and Local Statistics about Emancipating Foster Youth." heysf.org. Honoring Emancipated Youth, n. d. Web. May 2011.