As we watch our children head back into the classroom for the next school year, there is a population of children that warrant special attention: Orange County foster youth. While we do our best to mitigate the trauma to our foster children during their time in the dependency system, trauma is unfortunately prevalent and is a key factor that makes our foster youth one of the most academically vulnerable populations.
Just within the past several years, various organizations have published studies related to foster youth’s academic success. According to a report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office in California, 75% of California foster children perform below their respective grade level standard, and by 3rd grade, 80% of foster children across the State have to repeat a grade in school.[i] Sadly, the statistics once foster children attend high school continue to be disheartening. Students in foster care had the lowest graduation rate ranging from 30% to 58% in California depending on the school year and calculation methodology.[ii]
There are numerous community efforts taking place here in Orange County to help address the educational needs of our foster youth. The one I would like to focus on is the Social Services Agency’s partnership with the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) which has a specific team dedicated to supporting foster youth. The OCDE Foster Youth Services team members are co-located with our social workers in order to be able to expedite action to support our foster youth. Through this partnership, we consistently outpace the statewide graduation rates, ranging from 77% in the 2013-14 school year to our highest graduation rate of 84% in the 2015-16 school year.[iii]* There was a slight decrease in the 2016-17 school year to 78%; as a result, we are continuing our close collaboration with OCDE to ensure that we are providing our foster youth with the resources and support they need to succeed. Additionally, the OCDE team has been an incredible support to social workers and caregivers in connecting foster youth and their families to educational resources and educational planning.
As you can see, we are making great efforts to improve the academic success of Orange County foster youth. However, it’s not just the partnership between SSA and OCDE that is making this difference – it is the support of our community. In particular, our dedicated resource families are the people making a truly positive impact on the lives of our most vulnerable youth. We need more dedicated members of our community to step up and become resource families for our children in need. As a resource parent, you can help make a child’s dreams become reality.
I urge you to learn more about becoming a resource family. To learn more, or to share information about the process for becoming a resource family with others, please visit us at oc4kids.com or by calling (888) 871-KIDS. It is only by working together that we can make a positive impact in the life of a child.
 Legislative Analyst’s Office. “Education of Foster Youth Report.” http://www.lao.ca.gov/Publications/Detail/2069
 The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at West Ed. “The Invisible Gap: Education Outcomes of Students in Foster Care in California Public Schools.” https://www.wested.org/wp-content/files_mf/1400283692Invisible_Achievement_Gap_Full_Report.pdf and
Legislative Analyst’s Office. “Education of Foster Youth Report.” http://www.lao.ca.gov/Publications/Detail/2069
 Orange County Department of Education.
*Note: The graduation rates reported by the Legislative Analyst’s Office were calculated via different methodologies that the Orange County Department of Education.