Information for Resource Parents
Caregiver Role and Responsibility
Anyone who is caring for a child in foster care wants the best for that child. They are expected to make sure that the child is enrolled in the right school and in the appropriate classes, wakes up on time for school, goes to bed on time so that they have the energy to excel in school, has transportation to and from school, is involved in appropriate after-school activities, completes their homework... and on and on. This can lead to some tension because foster youth, like many other children, don't always want to do what will benefit them in the long run or know the steps it takes to set themselves up for success as an adult. The caregiver has one of the most significant roles in supporting their child in this respect, but fortunately in El Dorado County, they are not alone. There are many resources available to help support the foster youth and their guardian with their educational and social/emotional success.
Day to Day Educational Support
Enrollment & Orientation
It is important to review your child's academic records prior to enrolling your child.
Understand your child's social, emotional and academic functioning and potential.
Request a meeting early in the child's placement at the new school.
Get to know your school counselor or principal and relay important information to them.
Understanding School Culture
Know school rules and expectations: dress code, bell schedule, calendar, behavior policies.
Make sure your child has adequate school supplies on the first day of school and throughout the year.
Make sure your child has a class schedule that matches their interests, needs and goals, especially related to higher education.
Inquire about extracurricular, after-school and enrichment opportunities.
Having Direct Communication with Teachers/Staff at the school early and often
Be a proactive caregiver with school related issues.
Encourage teachers to reach out to you by letting them know who you are and providing contact information (email, phone).
Ask for progress reports or access to web-based grades so that you can keep up to date on homework and academic progress.
Ask for help from the school administrators, the social worker, Foster Youth Services (FYS) staff and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) when needed. You are not in this alone!
Working with your Child
Build on your child's strengths and help them learn new skills to address their weaknesses.
Understand and support the child's completing of school assignments - know what they are supposed to be doing, when assignments are due, and help them help themselves.
Provide a structured time for homework, reading assignments and projects at home.
Emphasize to your child the importance of school to future success.
Having patience, unconditional respect and offering encouragement can go a long way.
What to do when your child is struggling in school
Even the most prepared and well-intentioned caregiver may not be able to prevent a child from struggling in school. All available research demonstrates that kids in foster care struggle tremendously compared to their non-foster peers. Children in foster care often have histories of behavioral challenges, educational neglect, disabilities, and other barriers that are heightened by the trauma of being removed from their parents. In many instances, academic struggles are not new to the child and have followed them from their previous placements. In fact, school struggles can be a source of tension in a foster home that can lead to placement failure. Identifying and responding early to a child's struggles at school (behavioral, social or academic) can not only help the child get the support they need to excel in school but it can also prevent a child from failing in a placement.
When you see signs of trouble:
Request a meeting (sometimes called an SST - see below).
Understand the child's perspective prior to the meeting.
Get the teacher's perspective on the child's struggles.
Create an intervention plan with the school.
Schedule a follow-up meeting to review the effectiveness of interventions.
What is a Student Success/Study Team (SST) meeting?
If your child's difficulty with school seems to be more comprehensive than one subject or class, ask the teacher or counselor to organize an SST meeting. Teachers, administrators, social workers, educational liaison, caregivers and the child should be invited to participate. During the meeting, academics, behavior, attendance, work ethic, and skills will be discussed. A specific academic plan, along with the individual responsibilities and timelines, should be developed and put in writing to help the child improve. A follow-up meeting should be organized to discuss the child's progress after implementing the action plan.
What if the problems persist?
Consider the appropriateness of requesting a psycho-educational assessment to determine possible learning, physical, emotional or psychological disabilities that may be impacting their educational performance.
Foster youth are sometimes unfairly stigmatized because of their previously unstable home lives. However, our young people are also dealing with some unresolved emotional issues that can contribute to conflict in many settings, including school. Whatever the factors contributing to a discipline issue a child is facing in school, it is important to keep some principles in mind:
Be sure to investigate any incident to determine what happened. Foster youth experiencing trauma may misremember key facts. If possible, speak to more than one school staff.
Should a child with an IEP have considerable behavioral issues leading to a suspension or expulsion, a special meeting called a "Manifestation Determination" must occur first to determine if the unacceptable behavior is a result of their disability.
The Education Rights Holder must be involved in all IEP and suspension/expulsion hearings or manifestation determination.
School suspensions and expulsions
Suspensions and expulsions are two types of school discipline. Both are regulated by California Education Code 48900. Both suspensions and expulsions must contain two elements: an act prohibited by the Educational Code and a connection to school [EC48900(r)]. Remember, the act must be related to a school activity. This means, while on school grounds, while on the way to or from school, during lunch or recess, or during, to or from school sponsored activities.
Please be aware that there are certain Mandatory offenses for which the school board must expel a student [EC48915(b)]. These include:
Possessing, selling or furnishing a firearm
Brandishing a knife
Selling a controlled substance
Committing or attempting to commit sexual assault
Possession of an explosive
Other offenses fall under the purview of the district and are Discretionary.
Special Education Discipline
California special education discipline law incorporates federal law (IDEA) through the California Ed Code 48915.5.
Please be aware that if your youth has a disability under IDEA there are some differences in the discipline process. You will want to understand how the following impacts your foster youth, and consult with Special Education staff or the local SELPA:
Change in placement
Patterns of suspension
After the Manifestation Determination