For the answer to this question, we reached out to Melissa San Miguel, Policy Manager for FosterEd, a National Center for Youth Law initiative. Prior to joining NYCL, Ms. San Miguel worked as a legislative coordinator with The Education Trust and also gained experience at California Forward, the California Department of Education, and the Commonwealth Club. We are deeply appreciative of Ms. San Miguel's contribution to our site.
A. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) recognizes that some students - our low-income, English language learner and foster youth students - need additional resources to help them reach their college and career dreams. The LCFF holds great promise for foster youth, but in order for that to become a reality, districts and counties need to develop strong goals and sets of actions specific to foster youth in their Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP) to ensure foster youth receive the supports and services they need to succeed in school and thrive in life.
Children who are in foster care have been removed from their families because of abuse or neglect. In many cases they move from one living placement to another, and as a result, often change schools. In Fall 2013, WestEd released Part 1 of a groundbreaking report titled, The Invisible Achievement Gap, which detailed how California’s foster youth perform in school. It didn’t look good. The report found that twice as many foster youth performed ‘below basic’ and ‘far below basic’ on state academic achievement tests than students statewide, were much more likely to drop out than any other at-risk student group, and only 58 percent of foster youth 12th graders graduated as compared to 84 percent of all 12th graders in California. Without educational success, foster youth are not equipped to thrive beyond school or support themselves. Studies have found that over a quarter of former foster children experience homelessness and their unemployment rates are greater than 50 percent.
To begin to address the foster youth achievement gap, California became the first state in the country to hold itself accountable for the educational outcomes of foster youth. The LCFF added foster youth as a distinct student subgroup to the state Academic Performance Index (API). Now that foster youth are part of the API, the LCAPs must explain how each district will improve their educational outcomes and close the foster youth student achievement gap.
As districts and counties develop their plans, they should consult their county child welfare agency, county office of education’s Foster Youth Services coordinator, caregivers, and foster youth themselves. Foster parents/guardians and foster youth should ask when community meetings will happen and possibly request a meeting specific to foster youth with their school district. Sharing their experience and needs with district officials will be important so that staff writing the plans can address them. All of these stakeholders should participate whenever possible in the public meetings focused on LCAP development.
To make sense of the LCAP and what it means for foster youth, the Los Angeles County child welfare agency, former foster youth and an assortment of foster youth education experts came together as the Coalition for Educational Equity for Foster Youth. The coalition drafted samples of what strong LCAP goals and actions look like for foster youth. The California Foster Youth Education Task Force, a statewide coalition of over 35 state and local agencies committed to improving the educational outcomes of foster youth, recently endorsed the sample foster youth district LCAP and foster youth county LCAP.
The sample LCAPs and other LCFF resources related to foster youth can be found on the FosterEd website. FosterEd is an initiative at the National Center for Youth Law that works to improve the educational outcomes of foster youth nationally.
The LCFF is a promise to foster youth - that additional resources along with local decision-making will translate into additional educational opportunities and improved educational success. To make a difference in the lives of our foster youth, implementation will be key. Districts will need to work on a strong LCAP to ensure foster youth have the resources and infrastructure they need to be enrolled in school right away, stay at the school they currently attend even if they move to another school district, graduate from high school and succeed in school so they are prepared academically to enter a college or university. Foster youth are our children - the state's children - and they deserve an opportunity to succeed and live out their full potential. Together, we can help them get there.