Washington is meeting its target for keeping children in their original schools when they are placed or moved to different placements in out-of-home care. This measure identifies whether a change in school enrollment occurred when a child was initially removed from home and whether a change in school enrollment followed a move to a different home during the school year (excluding those placed with relatives).
Only 17.3% of children in placement during the 2008-09 school year changed schools when placed with non-relatives (1,027 of 5,924 children), compared to the benchmark of less than 20%. Supplemental data show that 9.3% of children changed schools when placed with relatives during the school year (218 of 2,351 children). This data demonstrates that the preference of placing children with their relatives causes fewer school disruptions than when children are placed with unrelated caregivers.
Of the children who changed schools due to non-relative placement, 4.3% (255) occurred at the time of initial placement and 13% (772) during subsequent placements. All regions are meeting the target with only slight variation in the rate, from a low of 14.1% in Region 1 South (formerly Region 2) to a high of 19.2% in Region 3 South (formerly Region 6).
When placing children in out-of-home care, social workers attempt to keep children in the same school or as close as possible, provided it is safe for the child and in the child’s best interest. Educational achievement for children in foster care is critical for successful transitions to self-sufficiency. Research indicates that each time foster children change schools they can lose educational progress and important connections to classmates, teachers, coaches, and others.
Social workers and managers continue to work with local schools and school districts, the Office of Superintendent for Public Instruction, and Treehouse to share information and promote educational stability for children in foster care (see Action Plan in Measure 2.7). To date, we have completed 200 of 295 total school district placement agreements, improving the collaboration necessary to support children’s educational success. While relationship-building is ongoing with all schools, we are focusing efforts to have signed agreements with those where there are high foster care placement rates.
Based on historical placement data, regional foster parent recruitment contracts identify specific “neighborhoods of focus” and establish performance measures for recruiting homes that meet the needs of children coming into care in those areas, lessening the need to place children outside of their communities.