Foster Care and School Performance

Topics: Foster care, Child protection, Adoption and Safe Families Act Pages: 10 (3623 words) Published: December 6, 2012
Foster Care Youth and School Performance

The issue under review is the academic under-performance of foster care youth and the possible interventions that are available to improve school performance of foster care youth. Foster care youth are not only at risk of academic failure- they are in fact performing far behind their normative peers (Zetlin & Weinberg, 2003). Foster care youth are faced with many risk factors and a lack of protective factors that lead to their lower school performance. Common risks factors include frequent moving and the experience of prior abuse and neglect (Sullivan, Jones, & Mathiesen, 2010). In addition to examining lower school performance of foster care youth and its causes, this review also discusses intervention strategies aimed at improving school performance. Specifically, this research review was aimed at investigating the use and effectiveness of mentoring programs with foster care children in upper elementary. After a review of the recent and pertinent literature on this topic this paper will finish with a discussion about why this research is particularly relevant to social work practice. Over half a million children are in foster care in the United States at any given time (Zetlin & Weinberg, 2003). The foster care population disproportionately consists of racial and/or ethnic minorities, with almost 40% being Black, despite the fact that the general US population is only about 13% Black (Zetlin & Weinberg, 2003). Studies show that youth in foster care are more likely to have academic problems, which are probably due in part to their higher rates of absenteeism. Foster youth also have higher rates of disciplinary referrals and behavior issues at school (Zetlin & Weinberg, 2003). According to one study, 75% of foster youth “perform below grade level and more than 50% have been retained at least 1 year in school” (Zetlin & Weinberg, 2003, “Educational Effects”, para. 1). Additionally, foster youth receive much lower scores on standardized achievement tests and earn lower grades than students in the general population. “In fact, whereas 10% of the general population receives special education services, 25–52% of children in foster care are placed in special education, generally related to either a learning disability or a serious emotional disturbance” (Zetlin & Weinberg, 2003, “Educational Effects”, para. 1). Foster youth are twice as likely to dropout of high school and studies show that they spend much less time completing homework. Their effort on homework has been linked to poor foster parent involvement (Zetlin & Weinberg, 2003). Broadly, research concerning the poor school performance of foster care youth is useful because foster youth constitute a large population that the government has a duty to serve and the ill effects of low school performance often result in continued government involvement. Foster youth are in the care of state agencies, because they were not being properly protected and cared for with their families. Part of safety is providing children with the skills and health to eventually protect and take care of themselves. Helping foster youth be successful in life is part of the states duty to protect and serve those in their custody. Furthermore, the state and federal governments often end up paying more for foster youth who are not successful in school. Most are at risk of ending up incarcerated or needing public assistance due to emotional issues and lack of employment (Zetlin & Weinberg, 2003).

Studying school performance of foster youth uncovers the many issues that foster youth face. The more research that is done on the risk factors and causes of lower school performance, the more likely it is that something can be done to start fixing this problem. Studying the comparative effectiveness of a variety of intervention strategies will provide the government with the necessary information to create programs that will help foster youth...
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