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Foster Care and Education: A Journey through the System. Tawny Spinelli. The Statistics. Number of Kids in Care. In 2010, there were 28,954 children in foster care in the state of Texas (Kids Count Data).

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number of kids in care
Number of Kids in Care
  • In 2010, there were 28,954 children in foster care in the state of Texas (Kids Count Data).
  • In 2010, there were 408,425 children in foster care in the United States (Kids Count Data).

For children in care longer than 24 months, 68% had more than two placements (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010).

school disruptions
School Disruptions
  • The more placements that a foster youth has, the less likely they are to graduate high school (Fernandes-Alcantara, 2012).
  • 1 in 3 foster youth reports 5 or more school changes during their time in care (Smithgall, Gladden, Howard, George, & Courtney, 2004).
  • The average child takes 4 to 6 months to recover academically from each school move (Burley & Halpern, 2011).

In fact, only 50% of all foster youth complete secondary education (high school) (Wolanin, 2005).


The more placements foster youth have, the less connected they feel with their parental figures and therefore, are more likely to become pregnant (Boonstra, 2011).


Foster youth pregnancy and parenting double the rate of high school dropouts and also increase the rate of unemployment (Leathers & Testa, 2002).


Transitioning youth, ages 15-17, represent the largest age group of all foster youth, and 1 out of every 4 foster youth fits into this age range (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011).


In 2010, 3,185 youth aged out of the foster care system in Texas. (Kids Count Data)

  • In 2010, over 27,500 youth aged out of the foster care system in the United States (McCoy-Roth, DeVooght, & Fletcher, 2010; Department of Health and Human Services, 2010)

However, less than 5% of former foster youth complete college degree programs (Wolanin, 2005)

after exiting care by age 23
After exiting care, by age 23:
  • 66% of youth had lived in at least 3 different places
  • 30% had lived in 5 or more places
  • 37% had been homeless
      • 50% of those that had been homeless were homeless more than once

(Midwest Study, 2010)

  • Legal barriers
    • Laws sometimes prevent smooth transitions from one school to another
    • Laws sometimes prevent participation in extracurricular activities (travel, photo releases, etc.)
    • When teens are being teens, laws regarding foster youth blow normal behaviors out of proportion.
  • Lack of caregiver involvement in academics/extracurricular activities
  • Low expectations: Pygmallion/Rosenthal effect
grim stats
Grim stats
  • Went to 7 different schools during 7th grade alone
  • Moved 21 times by age 19
  • Went to court 3 times over ‘missed curfew’
  • All medical and school records prior to my 8th grade year were ‘lost’
  • Was homeless for 2 months after I turned 18 while I was a senior in high school
not so grim stats
Not-so-Grim Stats
  • Graduated in 4 years
  • #2 in my class
  • 4.0 GPA
  • Numerous extracurricular activities
  • Over 100 hours of volunteer work
  • Worked for pay 40 hours per week
  • Accepted to Vanderbilt and graduated with departmental honors
keys to overcoming my obstacles
Keys to Overcoming My obstacles
  • Strong foundation and a solid finish
    • Only 1 elementary school and only 1 high school
  • Caregiver who understood important of extracurricular involvement
  • Teachers with high expectations
  • Judicial exceptions were made
    • Having a license (esp. to get to/from activities and work)
    • Going to FBLA and Mock Trial state conferences
  • Goals and dreams
  • Never giving up
take aways
  • #1. Policies and laws need to be changed to ensure that foster youth have the same access to education and extracurricular involvement as ‘normal kids.’
  • #2. Every child is different. Every foster child is different. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ that can be applied.
  • #3 Education is often the key to success, but sometimes motivation comes from external sources. It just takes one person.
one person
One person…
  • One person can really change the life of a foster youth.
  • Each and every one of you can be that one person.