Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Foster Care's Impact on Education

One of the major complaints of children who live in foster care is that their education is interrupted each time they move to a different foster home and need to change schools. They say that these disruptions put them at an academic and social disadvantage.

In an effort to remedy that situation, the first high school for children in foster care will open in Philadelphia in September, 2009. Called Arise Academy, the school will enroll 200 children from ninth through twelfth grade. In the event that a child is moved to another foster home during the school year, he will have the choice of changing schools or remaining at Arise Academy through the completion of his high school education.

It is expected that the children’s academic performance will improve and that they will feel more connected to the students they meet at school. Sixty percent of the children who have given input into the design, nature and intent of the new school have said that being a foster child in a school where most children live with birth parents has made them feel stigmatized. They believed that they would be more comfortable in a setting where all of the children were living in foster homes. Still, there is controversy about the wisdom of a school limited to foster children. Would it be better for them to remain in their neighborhood schools and learn adjustment to the larger world in which they will live? Or will their improved grades and more satisfying social connections be reflected in their increased self-esteem and an enthusiasm for learning? What do you think?

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