Voices for Children Shares How the Pandemic is Expected to Widen the Achievement Gap for Youth in Foster Care in San Diego
- Research shows only 52% of middle school students in foster care participated in four or more weeks of distance learning, compared to 75% of all middle schoolers.
- Prior to the pandemic, students in foster care fared worse than their peers on multiple measures of educational engagement and achievement due to the unique challenges they face; emerging data suggests that the education lost during the pandemic will cause the disparities to grow.
- Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers help ensure children in foster care receive appropriate academic resources and support.
The COVID-19 pandemic and school closures exacerbated the unique challenges youth in foster care already face in their academic endeavors, say experts at Voices for Children.
Children enter the foster care system because of abuse and neglect. The traumatizing experiences of moving from home to home and frequently switching schools often result in many of them being less engaged in school than their peers. During the pandemic, many students in foster care lacked appropriate technological resources and a supportive learning environment, which made it difficult for them to fully engage in distance learning. When schools reopened for in-person learning, students nationwide were behind in their learning, and for children in foster care, the gaps were especially significant.
Kelly Douglas, president and CEO of Voices for Children, says it’s important to bring attention to the unique educational challenges faced by students in foster care and to take action. One way to support students in foster care is to volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
Many students in foster care experience increased isolation, frequent home placement changes, school changes, and reduced access to technology. As a result of the trauma they have experienced, nearly 50% of students in foster care are in need of special education services.
When paired with CASA volunteers, children are more likely to receive appropriate resources to continue their education and to develop a trusted support system at home and school.
Voices for Children operates CASA programs in San Diego and Riverside Counties and trains volunteers to advocate on behalf of children in foster care to ensure these youth have access to resources and consistent support to overcome educational barriers and enhance school engagement.
“Youth in foster care need supportive adults to help them achieve their educational goals, and CASA volunteers are uniquely positioned to do just that. CASAs attend school meetings, facilitate participation in extracurricular activities, and advocate for children to receive tutoring, special education services if needed, and other support for unmet educational needs,” said Voices for Children President and CEO Kelly Douglas. “Through their advocacy and consistent support, CASA volunteers remove educational barriers for children in foster care so that they can thrive.”
HOW THE PANDEMIC IMPACTED STUDENTS IN FOSTER CARE
- Only 52% of middle school students who were in foster care participated in four or more weeks of distance learning, compared to 75% of all middle schoolers.
- Recent studies predict the pandemic will widen the significant achievement gaps that already existed between students in foster care and their peers.
- Nationwide data reveals significant school enrollment declines, with marginalized groups believed to experience the highest declines.
- 100% of youth in foster care enrolled in school reported that the pandemic resulted in at least one negative impact on their education.
HOW TO BECOME A CASA VOLUNTEER
To learn more about the CASA program or become a volunteer, click here.
Please note: the organization is in high need of Spanish-speaking CASAs.
ABOUT VOICES FOR CHILDREN
Founded in 1980, Voices for Children (VFC) transforms the lives of abused, neglected, and abandoned children in foster care in San Diego and Riverside Counties by providing them with trained, volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). CASA volunteers advocate for a foster child or sibling group in court, school, and in the community to ensure their needs are met. VFC believes that every child deserves a safe and permanent home, and strives to provide a CASA volunteer to every child in the foster care system who needs one. Last year, VFC CASAs and staff served more than 2,500 foster children across San Diego and Riverside Counties. For more information, visit www.speakupnow.org.