In Spite of the Odds: Achieving Educational Stability for Maryland’s African
American Foster Youth
Marja K. Plater, Esq. 1
Access to appropriate public education in the United States has been an ongoing societal
issue since its inception. The inherent racial inequalities in public education have been brought to
light repeatedly over the years and are highlighted in Brown v. Board of Education. 2 The policy
shift in viewing education as a civil right, and thus an issue of social justice, is a recent one in the
history of public education in the United States. 3 While education is not an established fundamental
right under the Constitution, there are legal theories that support its designation as one. 4
Furthermore, viewing education as a civil right would require that all children be provided an
opportunity to access education and be given the tools to succeed within the education system,
including foster children, who are arguably the most vulnerable population of youth. Within this
extremely vulnerable population, African American foster youth remain the most at-risk for
experiencing poor educational outcomes. 5 The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of
the recent federal laws that establish guidelines for the educational stability of foster youth: the
Fostering Connections Act of 2008 (“Fostering Connections Act” or “FCA”) and the Every
Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”). Additionally, this article analyzes Maryland’s implementation of
the educational stability requirements of the Fostering Connections Act and ESSA and its potential
effect on improving outcomes for Maryland’s African American foster youth.
Racial inequality for African Americans is a persistent and pervasive problem in America
that permeates many areas of society, including education. African American foster youth are not
only members of a racial group that faces systemic discrimination and prejudice; they are also part
of a class of extremely marginalized children. This article undertakes an analysis of the application
of the federal laws addressing educational stability through the lens of critical race theory (“CRT”),
providing a crucial discussion of the importance of improving educational outcomes for African
American foster youth in general, with a special focus on Maryland. Generally, CRT encompasses
an academic critique of the relationship of race, racism, and the power structure. 6 More
specifically, the CRT analysis considers racism as an ordinary occurrence in the lives of minorities
and central to minorities’ experiences in society, making it difficult to eradicate. 7 Further, CRT
1 Marja K. Plater is an attorney who represents children and youth in child abuse and neglect cases in Maryland. She
has a passion for advocating for civil rights and social justice issues in general, especially those involving education,
children, and families.
2 See Brown v. Bd. of Educ. of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483, 493, 495 (1954).
3 John B. King Jr., Education Remains the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time, THE EDUC. TRUST (May 17, 2017),
4See San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 34-35 (1973) (establishing that a right to public education
is not a fundamental right); See also Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565, 574 (1975) (holding that the Due Process Clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment provides a property right for students in their education requiring notice and a hearing
if deprived of this right).
5 David L. Sandles Jr. & Kenneth R. Magdaleno, Factors Impeding the Social and Academic Progress of African
American Males in Foster Care, 3 CLEARVOZ J. 1, 1 (2016).