90 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
or medical treatment.” 16 Neglect can also include failure to protect a child from dangerous
environments, such as exposure to illegal drugs or sexual predators. 17 Abuse generally includes
parents’ physical acts that could cause serious harm to or death of the child, as well as sexual
abuse. 18 Children exposed to neglect and/or abuse often display symptoms of the trauma they
experienced, like delayed cognitive or physical development and/or emotional and behavioral
problems. 19 Further compounding the issues, these children may also regularly experience a
second layer of trauma as a result of the separation from their parents and families. 20
III. COMMON BARRIERS TO EDUCATIONAL SUCCESS FOR FOSTER CHILDREN
Foster youth as a whole face many barriers to educational success. First and foremost,
foster youth are at a disadvantage due to their exposure to abuse and/or neglect, which can impact
their development, emotional stability, and behavior. 21 These children often suffer from extensive
trauma that has been proven to affect cognitive development and, depending on the severity, can
be a determinant of future negative behavior. 22
In 2017, there were approximately 437,000 youth in foster care in the United States. 23
Foster youth are twice as likely to be absent from school as children not in foster care. 24 Foster
children often experience a change in school placements when they first enter care and could
experience subsequent school changes when the child’s foster placement changes. 25 Studies have
shown that multiple changes in school placements negatively impacts foster children’s academic
performance. 26 These children are placed in a new home environment and consequently a new
school environment and are expected to be able to keep up academically through this adjustment.
Reports show that, on average, 17- and 18-year-old foster children are operating at a
seventh grade education level and are less likely to graduate from high school. 27 Studies have also
shown that poor academic performance of foster youth has a direct correlation to their outcomes
as adults in society after exiting the foster care system. 28 An unfortunate reality is that former foster
youth are far more susceptible to homelessness, incarceration, unemployment, long term mental
health issues, and even substance abuse. 29 Additionally, foster children deal with resulting trauma
16 Heather L. Fox, Reality and Resiliency: The Educational Needs and Strengths of Former Foster Youth, OFF. OF
COMMUNITY RES. & LEADERSHIP 2 (Nov. 2016), https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED574531.
17 Fox, supra note 16.
21 Id.; See also About the CDC-Kaiser ACE Study: Major Findings, CTR. FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION,
https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html (last updated June 14, 2016) [hereinafter ACE Study].
22 ACE Study, supra note 21.
23 THE AFCARS REP., THE CHILDREN‘S BUREAU 24, 1 (2017).
24 National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, Fostering Success in Education: National Factsheet on the
Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster Care, LEGAL CTR. FOR FOSTER CARE & EDUC. 1, 2 (Apr. 2018),
http://www.fostercareandeducation.org/OurWork/NationalWorkingGroup.aspx [hereinafter Fostering Success in
25 Id. at 5.
27 Id.; U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC. & U.S. DEP’T OF HEALTH & HUM. SERV., NON-REGULATORY GUIDANCE: ENSURING
EDUCATIONAL STABILITY FOR CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE 3 (June 23, 2016) [hereinafter GUIDANCE].
28 Fostering Success in Education, supra note 24, at 7.