As summer fades into autumn, it’s time to turn your attention to school. As a foster parent, your primary role is to provide a stable, nurturing environment where children feel safe and valued. You’re also faced with an extra layer of complexity: understanding and navigating the school system for a child entrusted to your care. Continue reading for the knowledge you need to navigate this journey confidently.
Education offers an advantage for all children. Unfortunately, traditionally children in care often face significant barriers to their educational progress. However, research shows that education can be even more beneficial for children in foster care than children in the general population.
The Importance of Education for Children in Care
Education is a pivotal part of every child’s life. For foster children, school is a place for learning and a source of stability, predictability, and social engagement. Multiple studies, including one at the University of California, Berkeley, have shown that education can be a powerful tool for overcoming adversity.
Understanding Your Foster Child’s Educational Rights
As a foster parent, protecting and advocating for the educational rights of children in your care is one of your responsibilities. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes provisions to promote educational stability for children in care to ensure they can continue their education without disruption and specifically have the right to:
- Remain in the same school, even if placement changes
- Immediate enrollment in a new school, if necessary
- Transportation to their school of origin
- Access the same academic resources, services, and extracurricular activities as others
Understanding Your Role as a Foster Parent in Education
As a foster parent, you have legal rights and responsibilities for educating the children in your care. These may vary by jurisdiction but typically include the following:
- Promptly enrolling the child in school
- Making everyday decisions about the child’s education
- Accessing school records and reports
- Attending and advocating in school meetings
- Attending parent-teacher meetings, school events, and parent-teacher conferences
- Helping with homework and other school assignments
- Supporting a child’s participation in extracurricular activities
- Ensuring regular school attendance
Accessing Special Education Services
Some children in foster care might qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If a child in your care has a disability, they have a right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that includes special education and related services. As a foster parent, it’s crucial to be aware of these services and how to access them:
Supporting Academic Success for Foster Children
As a foster parent, you have the unique opportunity to support the academic success of your foster child. Here are a few ways you can help:
Communicate Effectively With Schools
Clear and consistent communication with your foster child’s school is vital. Start by introducing yourself to the teachers and administrators. Also, ensure that you’re on all contact lists for school communications.
Collaborating With Teachers
Maintain regular contact with your child’s teachers. Attend parent-teacher meetings, and request periodic progress reports to stay informed about your child’s academic progress.
Working With School Counselors
Foster children often face unique challenges that might affect their behavior or performance at school. School counselors can provide emotional and learning support and career guidance. Establishing a good relationship with your foster child’s counselor can greatly help navigate the school system.
Structure and routine provide a sense of security, reducing stress and improving academic performance.
Provide a Study Space
Ensure your foster child has a quiet, well-lit space for studying and homework.
Regular reading can improve vocabulary, comprehension, and overall academic performance.
Dealing With Challenges
Despite your best efforts, you may encounter challenges along the way. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Reach out to the child’s caseworker, school counselor, or support groups for advice and assistance.
The SOS Children’s Villages Illinois Advantage
SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is a unique model that places full-time, professional Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages, where up to six children, ranging in age from infants to young adults, call home. Our villages boast built-in access to caseworkers or therapists and a 100 percent graduation rate, and 75 percent of those high school graduates choose to pursue a college degree.
Consider Becoming an SOS Foster Parent
If you want to become a foster parent, consider signing up with SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. Thousands of children in Illinois are ready to be welcomed into loving foster homes. If you’re prepared to take the leap and change a child’s life, check out how to make that happen.
Change a Child’s Life Today!
If you decide becoming a foster parent isn’t for you, there are many other ways to support foster children and other foster parents. You can support SOS Children’s Villages Illinois by making a one-time donation today or becoming a monthly recurring giver. You can also help by participating in an SOS Illinois fundraising event or making an in-kind contribution. The generosity of donors has enabled us to provide safe, stable, loving homes for more than thirty years. Click here to donate today to SOS Illinois.