By: Aysha E. Schomburg, Associate Commissioner, Office of Children, Children, Youth, and Families Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Ruth Ryder, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), US Department of Education
The 2021-2022 school year is over. As students begin their summer vacation, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) are coming together to highlight the important work that U.S. educators and privacy professionals children have done to support students in foster care; provide information on resources available to schools to support students in foster care; and to provide information on federal collaboration and efforts in this space.
First, we would like to thank the American educators and child welfare agency staff who support foster students every day. We are grateful for the tireless work of professionals – including teachers, social workers and counselors – who strive to ensure that a student’s engagement with the child welfare system has no no negative impact on the academic experiences and chances of success of this student. We are especially grateful that educators and child welfare personnel have worked together so effectively in neighborhood schools, as well as at the district and state levels. Partnership and common goals are essential to ensure that homestay students have unhindered access to the supports they need. Child protection professionals and educators have a responsibility to encourage all foster students to achieve their academic goals by providing access to resources that contribute to the social and emotional well-being of children by host family.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a life changing event for students, families, educators, school support staff and child protection staff. The lives of more than 140,000 children were permanently changed by the loss of a caring mother, father or grandparent, and children from racial and ethnic minorities made up 65% of those who have lost a primary caregiver due to the pandemic.1 Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, homestay students faced unique barriers to succeeding in school and graduating from high school. Moreover, the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect2 on low-income and traditionally underserved student populations, especially homestay students and children of color. Therefore, we want to recognize the role that educators and child welfare professionals have long played in supporting the mental health of students of all ages and families before and during the pandemic. We further emphasize the importance of ensuring that professionals who support students and families also have access to the services necessary to support their own emotional well-being. We will continue to share and improve best practices and resources3 aimed at meeting the well-being and mental health needs of students, their families, and the child protection and education professionals who support them.
While the pandemic has added stress to the lives of homestay students and the adults who support them, it has also resulted in an influx of resources available to help these students. State education agencies and school districts can use Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, including ESSER funds allocated under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, to provide a range of supports for homestay students to help manage the impacts. of the COVID-19 pandemic. Details are available here. Additionally, full-service community schools the program improves the coordination, integration, accessibility and effectiveness of services for children and families through parent leadership, family literacy, mentoring, youth development programs and activities that can improve access to and use of social service programs, programs that promote family financial stability, and mental health services. Additionally, President Biden proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Education for fiscal year 2023 includes $30 million earmarked for a new program designed to improve academic outcomes for foster students. ED believes this program will allow educational agencies to partner with child welfare agencies to better meet the unique needs of foster students. Finally, additional funding for the Chafee Foster Care program for a successful transition to adulthood, provided by Section X of the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, also remains available through expenditures until September 30, 2022. Information on this funding is available. here.5
In conclusion, ED and HHS are committed to expanding our collaboration in tangible ways at the federal level. Our agencies plan to co-host a webinar this fall – co-designed with young adults who have lived in foster care – to share best practices on how state and community partners are designing academic programs for host family students. Through this webinar, we hope to promote understanding of homestay student experiences; emphasize the importance of interagency collaboration at the federal, state, and local levels to support this student population; and demonstrate effective partnerships between child welfare and educational agencies.
To learn more about our agencies’ shared commitment to ensuring that homestay students are able to reach their full academic potential, please visit our web pages at https://oese.ed.gov/offices/office-of-formula-grants/school-support-and-accountability/students-foster-care/ (OF) and https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/service-array/education-services/educational-stability/ (HHS).
1 S Hillis, et al. Orphanage and deaths of caregivers associated with Covid-19 in the United States. Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2021-053760.
2 Education in a Pandemic: The Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on American Students https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/20210608-impacts-of-covid19.pdf.
4 Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Full Service Community Schools Programs. https://oese.ed.gov/offices/office-of-discretionary-grants-support-services/school-choice-improvement-programs/full-service-community-schools-program-fscs/.
5 ACYF-CB-PI-21-04. Guidance and Instructions Relating to Supporting Youth and Foster Families through the Pandemic Act, Section X of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, Public Law (PL) 116-260, enacted December 27, 2020 .