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Educational Advocates

Enhancing Educational Outcomes for Foster Youth

 

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the Foster Parent Training Guide. As a foster parent, your role extends beyond providing a safe and loving home; it involves nurturing the educational growth of the children in your care. This guide is designed to equip you with the understanding and tools needed to effectively support the educational needs of foster youth, addressing common barriers, roles and responsibilities, and offering practical strategies for success.

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Section 1 
Understanding and Overcoming Educational Barriers in Foster Care

 

As a foster parent, you play a critical role in the educational development of the children in your care. Understanding the common barriers that foster youth face in their education is the first step in helping them overcome these challenges and succeed academically. This section of the training manual will guide you through these barriers and offer strategies to mitigate their impact.

Common Educational Barriers for Foster Youth

  1. Trauma in Their Family

    • Description: Many foster children have experienced traumatic events within their families, which can significantly affect their emotional and cognitive development.

    • Impact on Education: Trauma can lead to difficulties with concentration, memory, and behavior in educational settings.

    • Support Strategies:

      • Establish a consistent, safe, and nurturing environment.

      • Encourage expression through art, play, or conversation.

      • Collaborate with mental health professionals for trauma-informed care.

  2. Disruption in Placements

    • Description: Frequent changes in foster care placements can disrupt a child's sense of stability and belonging.

    • Impact on Education: Each change can set back a child's academic progress and affect their ability to form trusting relationships with teachers and peers.

    • Support Strategies:

      • Provide stability and consistency in your home.

      • Maintain routines to help the child feel secure.

      • Facilitate smooth transitions by working closely with social workers and educators.

  3. Lack of Positive Parental Models

    • Description: Absence of supportive and engaged parental figures can leave foster children without critical role models.

    • Impact on Education: This lack can lead to a lack of understanding of the value of education and lower academic aspirations.

    • Support Strategies:

      • Be an active participant in the child's educational journey.

      • Model positive behaviors such as reading and discussing various topics.

      • Encourage goal-setting and celebrate achievements.

  4. Lack of Positive Educational Models

    • Description: Foster children may not have had exposure to individuals who value and model educational success.

    • Impact on Education: This can result in a lack of motivation and engagement in school.

    • Support Strategies:

      • Introduce them to positive educational role models, such as tutors or mentors.

      • Discuss the importance of education and its role in future success.

      • Expose them to various educational and career paths.

  5. Lack of Training of School Personnel

    • Description: Many educators and school staff are not trained to understand the unique needs of foster children.

    • Impact on Education: This can lead to misunderstandings and ineffective support for foster children's educational needs.

    • Support Strategies:

      • Advocate for your foster child at school.

      • Educate teachers and staff about the child's background and needs.

      • Encourage schools to seek training on issues specific to foster care.

  6. Changes in Schools

    • Description: Foster youth often experience frequent school changes, leading to disruptions in their educational continuity.

    • Impact on Education: These changes can create academic and behavioral gaps, with an average loss of six months of education per school change.

    • Support Strategies:

      • Work with the child's caseworker to minimize school changes.

      • Provide extra academic support during transitions.

      • Communicate with new teachers about the child’s academic history and needs.

 

Conclusion

By understanding these common educational barriers, you as a foster parent can be better prepared to address them. It's important to foster an environment of stability, support, and encouragement to help these children thrive academically. Remember, your role is not just to provide a home but to also advocate for and support the child's educational journey.

Section 2
Academic Support for Foster Youth
 

Providing academic support is a vital aspect of fostering. This section will guide you on how to establish a conducive learning environment in your home and maintain effective communication with educational institutions. These strategies aim to help your foster child develop not just academically, but also into responsible, curious, and independent learners.

Creating an Effective Learning Environment

  1. Structured Homework Time

    • Importance: Consistent homework time helps foster discipline and a routine.

    • Implementation: Designate a specific time each day for homework with no distractions from electronics or TV.

  2. Dedicated Study Area

    • Purpose: A set place for studying helps children focus and signals it’s time to concentrate.

    • Setup: Ensure this area is quiet, well-lit, and equipped with necessary supplies like stationery, textbooks, and reference materials.

  3. Access to Technology

    • Need: As children progress in school, computer access becomes increasingly important for research and assignments.

    • Provision: If a computer is needed and not provided by the school, explore available resources with your social worker or through community programs.

Communication with Educational Institutions

  1. Building Relationships with School Staff

    • Method: Regularly communicate with teachers, counselors, and case managers. This includes discussing Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for children who require them.

    • Benefits: Helps you stay informed about the child’s progress and any concerns that may arise.

  2. Maintaining Contact Regarding Student Progress

    • Approach: Keep in touch with key school personnel about the child's academic and behavioral development.

    • Purpose: Enables you to address any issues promptly and collaboratively.

  3. Notifying School of Changes

    • Importance: Inform the school of any significant changes in the child’s life, such as illness, legal issues, or refusal to attend school.

    • Procedure: Avoid unjustified sick calls. Provide a doctor's note for medical absences to ensure they are recorded appropriately.

 

Fostering Curiosity and Learning Skills

  1. Encouraging Curiosity

    • Method: Motivate the child to ask questions, research unknown topics, and engage in learning activities.

    • Outcome: This approach fosters a love for learning and develops critical thinking skills.

  2. Teaching Essential Learning Skills

    • Focus: Emphasize the importance of organization, task completion, following instructions, being proactive, and adherence to school rules.

    • Result: These skills are crucial in shaping a responsible and effective student.

Conclusion

By implementing these strategies, you will not only support your foster child's academic success but also contribute to their overall development as confident and self-sufficient individuals. Remember, your involvement and support can make a significant difference in their educational journey.

 

Section 3
Foster Parent Oversight and Accountability in Education

 

As a foster parent, your active involvement in overseeing and holding the foster child accountable for their education is crucial. This section focuses on how you can effectively monitor their academic progress, understand the resources available, and create an accountable environment that fosters learning and responsibility.

Actively Engaging with School Resources

  1. Using Infinite Campus (IC)

    • Purpose: Infinite Campus is a tool that allows you to track the child’s assignments, grades, and overall school progress.

    • How to Engage:

      • Learn to log into and navigate IC. School staff can assist you if needed.

      • Regularly review the child’s assignments and grades.

      • Discuss missing assignments with the child and celebrate their good grades to encourage them.

      • Teach the child to use IC themselves to foster their independence and responsibility for their education.

 

Fostering Accountability in Education

  1. Monitoring Schoolwork

    • Strategy: Keep a regular check on what assignments are due and when.

    • Outcome: This helps in ensuring the child stays on track with their schoolwork and deadlines.

  2. Limiting Distractions

    • Implementation: Ensure that all electronics not needed for learning are turned off during study times.

    • Benefit: This minimizes distractions and helps the child to focus on their studies.

 

Understanding and Utilizing Additional Supports

  1. Accessing Tutoring Services

    • Availability: One-on-one tutoring can be arranged in your home. Check with your social worker for available resources.

    • Advantage: Personalized tutoring can address specific academic challenges and reinforce learning.

  2. Navigating the MTSS Process

    • Understanding MTSS: Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is a framework used in schools to provide targeted support and interventions for students.

    • Parental Role: Familiarize yourself with the MTSS process to better understand and support the child’s learning needs.

  3. Involvement in 504/IEP Processes

    • Participation: Be actively involved in the development and monitoring of any 504 Plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) the child may have.

    • Responsibility: Ensure you have copies of these plans and understand them to advocate effectively for the child’s needs.

 

Special Considerations for Group Homes

  1. Creating a Conducive Learning Environment

    • Strategy: Implement structured homework times, ensuring every child engages in learning activities for at least half an hour.

    • Flexibility: Understand that schedules may vary due to appointments or other commitments, but maintain a regular learning routine.

  2. Setting and Modeling Expectations

    • Approach: Clearly communicate that learning is a priority and an enjoyable part of life.

    • Modeling: Show enthusiasm for learning and set an example for the children.

  3. Encouraging Peer Support

    • Method: Facilitate opportunities for older youth to support and mentor younger ones in subjects they are proficient in.

 

Conclusion

Effective oversight and accountability are key to fostering a child’s academic success. By actively engaging with educational tools, fostering a disciplined study environment, understanding additional support systems, and modeling positive learning behaviors, you can significantly impact the educational journey of your foster child.

 

Section 4
Navigating Educational Transitions for Foster Youth
 

Transitions between educational stages are pivotal moments in a child's academic journey. For foster youth, these transitions can be especially challenging due to their unique circumstances. This section provides guidance on supporting foster children through these critical phases, from elementary school to post-secondary pathways.

Understanding the Importance of Educational Transitions

  • Preparation for Life: Education is a foundational step towards adulthood, equipping children with skills and knowledge for future vocations and real-life situations.

  • Acquiring Learning Skills: School is not just about academic learning; it's about learning how to learn, developing habits, and adapting to different social and educational environments.

 

Transition from Elementary School (ES) to Middle School (MS)

  • Anticipating Changes:

  • Multiple Subjects and Teachers: Prepare the child for managing different subjects and adapting to various teaching styles.

  • Financial Considerations: Be aware of class fees, PE uniforms, and costs associated with extracurricular activities. Utilize available school resources or seek assistance for these expenses.

  • Social Challenges: Discuss coping strategies for interacting with a larger and more diverse peer group.

  • Locker Use: If applicable, teach the child how to use lockers and manage their belongings effectively.

  • Encouraging Extracurricular Participation: Motivate the child to explore interests through clubs, sports, and other school activities, fostering social skills and personal growth.

 

Transition from Middle School (MS) to High School (HS)

  • Engaging in Preparatory Activities: Encourage participation in summer programs or school tours to familiarize with the high school environment.

  • Understanding Academic Requirements: Assist the child in comprehending high school credit requirements for both core and elective subjects.

  • Leveraging Counselor Resources: Maintain communication with school counselors for guidance and support, particularly in addressing any academic or social issues.

  • Addressing Attendance: Emphasize the importance of regular attendance and the impact of unexcused absences on grades.

 

Transitioning Out of High School

  • Future Planning: For youth not on a reunification or adoption path, explore options under programs like AB350 for continued support through the Independent Living (IL) team.

  • IL Worker Assistance: An IL worker, assigned by age 17.5, will aid in navigating post-high school options.

  • College and Career Guidance: Utilize the services of College & Career Advocates for assistance in transitioning to higher education or vocational training.

 

Preparing for Post-Secondary Education or Vocational Training

  • Exploring Options: Investigate various paths, including college, vocational training, or a combination of both.

  • Accessing Support Programs: Be aware of programs like Boosted Diplomas that provide additional support and resources for transitioning youth.

 

Conclusion

Each educational transition is an opportunity for growth and development. As a foster parent, your support and guidance during these transitions can significantly influence a foster child's confidence and success. By preparing them for the changes, engaging with educational resources, and planning for the future, you can help pave the way for their academic and personal achievements.

 

Section 5
Understanding the importance of school of origin for foster youth
 

The concept of "School of Origin" plays a vital role in the educational stability of foster youth. This section explores the importance of maintaining a foster child’s enrollment in their original school and the legal frameworks that support this principle.

The Significance of School of Origin

  1. Stability in a Foster Child’s Life

    • Context: For many foster children, the school they attend upon entering care may be their most stable environment.

    • Impact: Continuity in the same school provides a sense of normalcy and consistency, crucial for their emotional and academic well-being.

  2. Educational Continuity

    • Statistics: Research indicates that foster youth lose an average of six months of educational progress with each school change.

    • Consequence: Frequent school changes can lead to significant academic setbacks and emotional distress.

 

Legal Frameworks and Procedures

State and National Laws

  • Obligation: The WCHSA is legally required to make every effort to keep foster youth in their School of Origin when it’s in their best interest.

  • Rationale: This legal mandate acknowledges the critical importance of educational stability in the life of a foster child.

Process for Changing Schools

  • Approval Requirement: If it is determined that changing schools is in the best interest of the child, such a decision must be approved by WCHSA leadership.

  • Coordination: The process is coordinated through the child’s social worker, ensuring that all factors are considered before making a change.

Applicability of Laws

  • Scope: These laws apply regardless of the foster youth’s placement situation, including those placed in potentially adoptive homes or in the process of reunifying with biological parents.

  • Purpose: The aim is to minimize disruptions and uphold educational stability throughout the child’s journey in the foster care system, up to case closure.

 

Conclusion

The School of Origin is more than just an educational institution for foster youth; it's a cornerstone of their stability and development. As a foster parent, understanding the significance of this concept and the legal frameworks that support it is crucial. By advocating for the child’s educational stability and working within these legal parameters, you play a vital role in supporting their academic and emotional well-being.

 

Section 6
Washoe County Human Services Agency Services & Support
 

Understanding and utilizing the resources offered by the Washoe County Human Services Agency (WCHSA) can significantly enhance the educational experience of foster youth. This section outlines various services provided through the Washoe County School District (WCSD) and other support mechanisms available to foster families.

WCSD Services for Foster Youth

Free Lunch Program

  • Eligibility: All foster youth automatically qualify for free lunch, ensuring they receive nutritious meals at school.

  • Benefit: This program alleviates financial burden and ensures consistent nutrition during the school day.

Coverage of Certain Fees

  • Scope: While standard registration fees are generally covered by families, certain extenuating fees like lab fees, uniforms, sports equipment, and AP testing may be covered through grant funds.

  • Access: Contact your social worker to inquire about these funds and eligibility.

Transportation Services

  • Out of Zone Schools: Transportation to schools outside the local zone can be coordinated through your worker.

  • In Zone Transportation: Regular transportation within the school zone is handled by the schools themselves.

 

Addressing Transportation Challenges

Special Education Transportation

  • IEP Consideration: If transportation is a part of the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), they will be eligible for specialized transportation.

Navigating Bus Driver Shortages

  • Alternative Solutions: In case of route unavailability due to driver shortages, explore other options such as before and after school programs.

  • Subsidies for Foster Youth: Many programs, including those from Boys & Girls Clubs, offer transportation to and from certain schools at no charge to foster families.

Route Checks from Various Locations

  • Flexibility: WCSD can assist in checking transportation routes from different locations, including a foster parent's workplace, relatives’ homes, or daycare centers.

Mileage Reimbursement

  • Eligibility: Foster parents providing transportation are eligible for mileage reimbursement.

  • Procedure: No detailed mileage tracking is required, and payments are made monthly upon arrangement with WCSD. Reach out to your worker for setting up this contract.

 

Special Education and 504 Accommodations

Initial Consultation with School

  • Prior Steps: Before requesting an IEP or 504 Plan, meet with the school to understand the current supports in place for the student.

  • Consideration of Attendance: If the student has missed significant schooling, they must attend for at least 45 consecutive days for a proper assessment of their needs.

MTSS System

  • Understanding MTSS: Find out if the student is already receiving support under the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) process, which provides tiered interventions.

Advocating for Additional Support

  • Guidance: Do not hesitate to ask your social worker for assistance in navigating the process of securing special education services or accommodations.

 

Conclusion

The resources provided by WCSD and WCHSA are invaluable in supporting the educational journey of foster youth. As a foster parent, familiarizing yourself with these services and advocating for their utilization can greatly enhance the educational experience and overall well-being of the child in your care.

 

Section 7
Understanding the MTSS Process in Schools
 

The Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is a comprehensive framework used in schools to provide targeted interventions for students struggling academically or behaviorally. As a foster parent, understanding the MTSS process can help you advocate effectively for the educational needs of your foster child.

The Structure of MTSS

Tier 1: Universal Instruction

  • Description: This is the standard instruction all students receive in the regular classroom.

  • Problem Identification: If a student struggles, the issue is identified, and an MTSS meeting is scheduled to discuss potential interventions.

Tier 2: Targeted Interventions

  • Purpose: Designed for students who need more support than what is provided in Tier 1.

  • Interventions: These may include extra practice in skills like reading fluency or math, accommodations such as extended time for assessments, and participation in small social groups.

  • Monitoring Progress: Regular meetings review the student’s progress. It’s important to be proactive in scheduling these reviews and ensuring interventions are documented.

Tier 3: Intensive Interventions

  • Criteria: This tier is for students who continue to struggle despite interventions in Tier 2.

  • Process: At this stage, a student may be considered for a Section 504 Plan or evaluated for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

 

Understanding 504 Plans and IEPs

504 Plan

  • Scope: Part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, providing accommodations to level the playing field for students. It does not involve specialized instruction.

  • Examples: More time for assignments, class breaks, preferential seating, and modified textbooks.

IEP

  • Purpose: Provides specialized instruction and resources tailored to the student’s specific needs.

  • Advocacy: Ensure that the IEP is individualized; request necessary accommodations or resources as needed.

 

Advocacy and Rights

  • Active Participation: Foster parents should actively participate in MTSS meetings, advocating for the child's needs.

  • Understanding Rights: Familiarize yourself with educational rights and procedural safeguards provided to students and parents.

  • Documentation: Keep copies of all documents related to the child’s educational interventions, including MTSS and IEP/504 plans.

 

Conclusion

The MTSS process plays a critical role in identifying and addressing the educational needs of students, especially those in foster care. By understanding and engaging in this process, you can ensure that your foster child receives the appropriate support and interventions to succeed academically.

 

Section 8
Boosted Diplomas: Empowering foster & Educationally at-risk youth
 

Program Overview

Boosted Diplomas is a pivotal non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the educational needs of foster and educationally at-risk youth in Reno, Nevada. With a comprehensive range of services from tutoring to educational advocacy, Boosted Diplomas plays a crucial role in the academic success of many students.

  • Geographic Reach: Currently serving over seventy students in Reno, the organization aims to expand throughout Washoe County, Rural Nevada, and eventually Southern Nevada.

 

Core Services of Boosted Diplomas

Weekly Tutoring

  • Objective: To provide personalized academic assistance to students.

  • Method: Students are paired with college students or recent graduates who are not only academically proficient but also experienced in catering to diverse learning styles.

  • Frequency: Tutoring sessions can range from 1-3 hours per week based on the student’s needs.

Educational Advocacy

  • Role of Educational Advocates (EAs): EAs act as the educational guardians for each student, deeply involving themselves in every educational aspect of the student’s life. This includes participating in meetings, court hearings, and liaising with school staff.

  • Goal: To remove educational barriers and coordinate necessary services, ensuring a unified approach to the student’s education.

College and Career Advocacy

  • Target Audience: High school juniors and seniors, and recent graduates.

  • Services: College and Career Coaches (CCCs) assist students in exploring post-secondary options, guiding them through applications, financial support, and transition into higher education or vocational training.

  • Community Partnerships: Collaboration with local businesses to provide supportive professional environments for students pursuing vocational paths.

Peer Navigator

  • Support for Struggling Students: For students who need additional support but not full EA intervention, a peer navigator works alongside a tutor to monitor and assist with academic and attendance issues.

  • Role: The peer navigator ensures that no assignments or critical learning material is overlooked, maintaining the student’s academic progress.

 

Key Programs

Achievements Unlocked (AU)

  • Focus: This program caters to high school students, providing a blend of tutoring, EA, and CCA services.

  • Aim: To unlock the full potential of each student, ensuring their academic success and readiness for future educational or career paths.

General Tutoring Support

  • Range: Available for students from the 1st grade through their first year of college.

  • Purpose: To build a strong foundation in course material and foster academic confidence.

 

Conclusion

Boosted Diplomas represents a vital resource in the educational landscape of Washoe County, offering tailored support to foster and at-risk youth. As foster parents, understanding and utilizing the services provided by Boosted Diplomas can significantly enhance the educational journey of the children in your care.

Foster Parent Training Guide

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