For their 2018-2019 annual projects, Juveniles for Justice and Youth Fostering Change worked together to tackle the complex issues that disrupt education and delay high school graduation for youth in foster care and/or the juvenile justice system.
Youth advocates used their personal experiences in these systems, specifically the numerous challenges they faced trying to get an education while in foster care or the justice system, to create a joint publication, Operation: Education - An Action Kit to Achieve Positive Educational Outcomes for Youth in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems. The action kit includes recommendations from both Youth Fostering Change and Juveniles for Justice, concrete steps for how to implement each recommendation, and bench cards for judges to use in court.
Youth advocates met with Pennsylvania state senators in Harrisburg and presented Operation: Education to the legislators, urging them to pass important legislation that would implement several of their policy recommendations.
Youth Fostering Change Recommendations:
- Create A Point of Contact for Students in Foster Care: School moves and placement changes often disrupt youth’s education. A point of contact would help youth in care reintegrate to a new school after a move or some other educational disruption.
- Involve Youth in Extracurricular Activities: Youth in foster care often do not have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities at school. Involvement in these activities gives youth in care the opportunity to have a normal high school experience.
- Expedite Records Transfer and Course Re-enrollment: Youth sometimes struggle to get re-enrolled after they have moved schools or placements. Some youth are re-enrolled in the wrong classes or the wrong grade. Course reenrollment should be a quick process for youth.
- Standardize Graduation Requirements: Youth in care often find the classes they take in one school are not recognized by another school. Conflicting or different graduation requirements at different schools disrupt a young person’s path to graduation. This often forces youth in care to re-do work they already completed in a comparable class at a different school.
- Invest in the Community: Investing in communities is necessary to address the racial inequities in the child welfare system. These kinds of investments encourage the growth of community-based supports and reduce the number of African American and Latinx youth being funneled into the child welfare system.
Juveniles for Justice Recommendations:
- Create A Point of Contact for Youth with Justice System Involvement: Youth leaving juvenile placements face the process of re-entry and going back to school with little support. Every school should have a point of contact to support youth transitioning from juvenile placements and ensure young people have seamless transitions back to their home schools.
- Expedite Re-enrollment: Youth sometimes struggle to get re-enrolled after they have moved schools or placements. Some youth are re-enrolled in the wrong classes or the wrong grade. Course re-enrollment should be a quick process for youth.
- Standardize Graduation Requirements: Youth leaving placement often find that work they completed in the facility does not count towards graduation in their new school. This means they must re-do work, setting them back and delaying graduation.
- Invest in Communities: These investments address the racial inequities in the juvenile justice system. They offer strategies to reduce the number of African American and Latinx youth being funneled into the juvenile justice system by encouraging the growth of community-based supports.
- Implement Accountability and Enforcement Procedures: Facilities often don’t give youth safe, secure opportunities to report the sub-standard education youth receive while in placement. When visits or inspections do occur, they do not always capture the whole picture of young people’s
Being in one or both systems can greatly impact young people’s ability to complete school and successfully graduate on time.
J4J and YFC youth advocates didn’t get the support they needed to complete school. Many youth in foster care and the juvenile justice system face the same educational challenges—from lost credits and records to sub-standard education in on-grounds schools to frequent school and/or placement changes that disrupts education and learning. These challenges lead to poor educational outcomes. National data shows:
- As many as two thirds of youth who leave the juvenile justice system drop out of school.
- An estimated 3-10.8% of foster care alumni attain a bachelor’s degree by age 21, compared to the national rate of 32.5%.
- Youth of color in foster care are less likely to have a high school diploma and more likely to have a GED than non-Hispanic white youth in foster care.
- Available research shows that only 2% of youth held at juvenile facilities for 90+ days were accepted to college.
- Only 65% of foster youth complete high school by age 21.
These outcomes are unacceptable. The foster care system should help youth meet education goals, not set them back. Being in the justice system shouldn’t mean youth receive inadequate or no education.