The benefits of education are important for all children. Decades of research indicates that youth who graduate have a better chance of success in almost every aspect of life. In fact, one study found that increased levels of education have larger benefits for youth in foster care than youth from the general population. Research shows a consistent theme: children in traditional foster care face significant barriers to their educational progress, starting from before school begins and extending through postsecondary education. The benefits of school success are many. Only 50 percent of children in traditional foster care graduate from high school, and only three to 11 percent complete a bachelor’s degree. These rates can be attributed to multiple barriers children face in the traditional model that prevent them from succeeding in school. SOS Illinois consistently achieves a 100 percent graduation rate, and 75 percent of those high school graduates choose to pursue a college degree.
One of the biggest advantages of obtaining a high school diploma is that it creates the possibility of better job opportunities. Along with better job opportunities comes higher pay for people who have a diploma. Studies have shown that high school graduates earn more money per year than those who have not graduated from high school. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2017 that high school graduates earned an average of $192 more per week than people who didn’t graduate.
On the flip side, there is a direct correlation between a lack of high school education and incarceration. Of all of the males in federal and state prisons, 80 percent do not have a high school diploma. One in ten male dropouts between the ages of 16 to 24 is either in prison or in juvenile detention.
Early Intervention is Key
Children placed in foster care are extremely vulnerable. Research has consistently found a high need for early intervention and early childhood education services among young children in foster care as a result of their developmental, emotional, and behavioral problems. Yet, several studies indicate that many young children in a traditional foster care model do not receive the early intervention or early childhood education services they need to address these problems.
- Many infants in care have been prenatally exposed to alcohol and/or dangerous drugs. Forty percent of children in care under age five are born with low birth weight and/or are premature, which puts them at greater developmental risks, and more than half suffer from serious physical health problems.
- Developmental delays occur at a rate four-to-five times greater than that of children in the general population.
- More than one-half of children in foster care had experienced caregiver violence or caregiver incarceration and almost two-thirds had lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem.
- In a study of Illinois children who entered foster care without first receiving in-home services, researchers found that over one-third of the three- to five-year-olds showed evidence of a possible developmental delay in at least one of the following domains: visual-motor adaptive, language and cognition, fine or gross motor, personal, social, or problem-solving. Fourteen percent of children three- to five-years of age were identified as having behavior problems ranging from lack of focus to aggressiveness.
This lack of early intervention dramatically impacts the longtime educational success of youth in foster care. On-site access to caseworkers and therapists enables SOS Illinois to provide early and crisis intervention to children living in its Villages to help lessen the impact of developmental, emotional, and behavioral issues that might otherwise affect their educational progress. In addition, our professionally trained, full-time Foster Parents provide stability in family homes in our Villages that offer a semblance of normalcy.
Constant relocation creates added barriers that prevent children in traditional foster care from acquiring a high school diploma.
- School-age children in traditional foster care commonly experience a number of moves that frequently include changing schools. Numerous studies have found that constantly changing schools has negative effects on academic achievement, including lower scores on standardized tests and greater risk of dropping out.
- Children who experience frequent school changes may also face challenges in developing and sustaining supportive relationships with teachers or with peers. Research has shown that supportive relationships and a positive educational experience can be powerful contributors to the development of resilience and are vital components for healthy development and overall well-being.
- Repeated changes in location can also cause delays in school enrollment. These delays can negatively impact attendance and have a number of other adverse consequences such as students having to repeat courses previously taken, schools failing to address the special education needs of students, and students being enrolled in inappropriate classes.
- Another factor associated with relocation is high rates of absenteeism. Children who have early placement stability have been shown to have less absenteeism than other children in foster care.
How SOS Illinois is Celebrating More Graduations
The innovative SOS Illinois Foster Care model raises children in single-family homes that can accommodate up to six children in a Village setting, ensuring that children are not required to relocate so they can remain at a single school. Children living in our Villages have an extremely low rate of absenteeism, with nearly 100 percent of our youth attending 90 percent or more days of school.
Support Our Graduates
The high graduation rate of children who reside in the SOS Illinois Village homes is one of the many ways our unique model helps children thrive and succeed in life. Learn more about our approach to make a difference in the lives of children and how you can be an agent of change.