Foster Care & Education
Using The Texas Blueprint as a roadmap, the Foster Care & Education Committee focuses on strategies to improve educational experiences and outcomes for children and youth in Texas foster care.
Foster Care & Education Committee
Hon. Rob Hofmann, Chair, ShaLynn Andrews, Joy Baskin, Hon. Alyce Bondurant, Lori Duke, Dr. Monica Faulkner, Maya Guerra Gamble, Dr. David Gardner, Andy Homer, Kelly Kravitz, Hon. Aurora Martinez Jones, Kristine Mohajer, Hon. Cathy Morris, Jon Olson, Wanda Pena, Michael Redden, Carol Self, Ian Spechler, Julie Wayman
Transforming Education Outcomes for Children and Youth in Texas Foster Care
In 2010, the Supreme Court of Texas issued an Order Establishing the Education Committee of the Children's Commission. The Education Committee — a high-level group of
The Education Committee recognized that when the state acts as
Together, we will improve the educational outcomes of our children and youth in care.
Texas children and youth in foster care comprise a small percentage of the total student population, but their difficulties are great. Often, before entering foster care, their lives have been chaotic and sometimes filled with danger or extreme neglect. Foster care, although intended to be a safe haven for children and youth who are victims of abuse and neglect, often causes additional challenges and instability. Youth formerly in foster care often note it was school t that provided the only consistency in their lives. Many remember a caring teacher who truly made a difference.
According to national studies, youth in foster care often have poor educational outcomes, in comparison with the general child population. The National Working Group on Foster Care and Education reviewed studies from around the country on children and youth currently and formerly in foster care. According to these studies, when compared to the general student population, foster youth were more likely to be suspended or expelled, scored lower on statewide standardized tests, were more likely to repeat a grade, were less likely to graduate and were more likely to drop out.
Although educational challenges are not unique to children and youth in foster care, this vulnerable population faces additional hurdles, including multiple residential and school changes, court appearances or therapeutic or other case-related appointments that must be attended during school hours, missed school days to visit with parents and siblings, as well as a typically chaotic educational history prior to entering foster care in the first place.
Children and youth who are of school-age and in foster care may also find themselves lost in-between child welfare and education – two systems with overlap, but inadequate ongoing and effective communication. Texas judicial, child welfare, and education stakeholders informally report that school changes result in a damaging loss of records, credits, services, and support systems, which can hinder the academic success of school-age foster children and youth.
The creation of the Education Committee in 2010 ultimately led to a new level of cross-system collaboration previously unseen in Texas. Led by judges, the Education Committee included the commissioners of Texas' state education and child welfare agencies, the directors of Texas CASA, Association of School Boards, and the Association of School Administrators, plus Casey Family Programs, a parent's attorney, a child's attorney ad litem, and a youth formerly in care.
The work of the Education Committee resulted in over 100 education, child welfare, and court stakeholders, including CASA, coming together over an 18-month period to listen and learn from each other, discuss and debate the issues, and ultimately develop recommendations to improve educational outcomes of children and youth in foster care. The recommendations may be found in the Texas Blueprint: Transforming Education Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster Care, presented to the Children's Commission in May 2012.
Preliminary Report of the Education Committee, December 2010
Interim Report of the Education Committee, August 2011
The Education Committee, as envisioned by the Supreme Court of Texas, was to be a short-term effort of
In December 2012, the Supreme Court of Texas signed an order officially discharging the Education Committee from its duties and creating a new Texas Blueprint Implementation Task Force and Advisory Council to continue the collaboration begun by the Education Committee and to monitor the progress of implementation of the recommendations issued in the Texas Blueprint. The Texas Blueprint Implementation Task Force, chaired by the Honorable Rob Hofmann, former Education Committee member, included:
- Hon. Alyce Bondurant, Child Protection Court of North Texas
- Joy Baskin, Texas Association of School Boards
- Edna Ramon Butts, Austin Independent School District
- Cathy Cockerham, Texas CASA
- Lori Duke, Clinical Professor, Children's Rights Clinic, UT School of Law
- Maya Guerra Gamble, Attorney at Law
- Jenny Hinson, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
- Judge Cathy Morris, Child Protection Court of South Texas
- Wanda Pena, Casey Family Programs
- Michael Redden, New Horizons
- Jessica Sheely, University of Texas
- Ian Spechler, Disability Rights Texas
- Julie Wayman, Texas Education Agency
The Implementation Task Force met from January 2013 until December 2014, at which time it provided recommendations for future work to the Children's Commission. The Task Force created three workgroups, which were chaired by members of the Task Force, to help carry out its work:
- Training and Resources Workgroup
- School Stability Workgroup
- Data Workgroup
An Advisory Council was also created to support the work of the Task Force and to provide guidance, as needed. Chaired by Judge Patricia Macias, former chair of the Education Committee, the Advisory Council included:
- Hon. Cheryl Shannon, 305th District Court, Dallas
- Commissioner John J. Specia, Jr., Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
- Commissioner Michael Williams, Texas Education Agency
- James B. Crow, Executive Director, Texas Association of School Boards
- Dr. Johnny L. Veselka, Executive Director, Texas Association of School Administrators
- Carolyne Rodriguez, Casey Family Programs
- Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA
In February 2013, more than 200 court, child welfare, and education leaders met in Austin at Texas' first Foster Care and Education Summit and Texas took another step in its long-term initiative to improve how children and youth in foster care in schools. The Summit represented a new chapter in the initiative – bringing together a large group of multi-disciplinary stakeholders to raise awareness of the issue and to begin establishing connections among the courts, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), and local school districts.
In 2011, Texas became 1 of 10 sites to receive a federal Child Welfare Education Demonstration grant, entitled Child Welfare - Education System Collaborations to Increase Educational Stability, from the Children’s Bureau, resulting in the Texas Trio Project. The project included the Texas Education Agency, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and the Children’s Commission, as well as a pilot project with the Houston Independent School District. The Texas Trio Project provided an opportunity to strengthen cross-system partnerships, increase awareness about the educational needs of students in foster care, and build capacity to develop solutions to meet those needs. A key deliverable of the project was the development of the Foster Care and Student Success Resource Guide.
In February 2015, the Children's Commission created a standing Foster Care & Education Committee to maintain momentum and oversee the continued implementation of the Texas Blueprint recommendations. The next phase of implementation began with the first meeting of the Foster Care & Education Committee on July 20, 2015.
The committee approved the creation of five workgroups to meet periodically. The workgroups address data, postsecondary opportunities, special education, school behavior and discipline, and collaboration at the local level.
The Foster Care & Education Committee meets quarterly to monitor