Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Forgotten Half/Perceptions
No Child Left Behind Reforms to Aid Foster Children
Reforms to NCLB Act:
Why the reforms?
Foster Care is a life for approximately 800,000 children in America (Craft, 2007). On any given day a child is taken from a home that is not safe, nurturing, or supportive, but it is the only home that child has known. This is traumatic and will affect the life of this child forever. Foster care children are likely to have health problems, social problems, and behavioral problems. The child will move from one home to another several times during their stay in foster care, which will further stunt their education. They find it very difficult to form necessary bonds with teachers and classmates. School records take anywhere from three weeks to eight months to catch up with the child (Zetlin, 2004). During this time, teachers are in the dark as to the child’s situation and educational needs. School councilors do not have the proper information they need to administer to the child’s welfare. Foster parents are lacking in information they so desperately need to care for the child properly.
During this time all involved, due to being either misinformed or not informed at all, form perceptions. A child that is detached, withdrawn and disinterested in class is viewed as a “typical teenager” or a difficult student. Foster children “exhibit with greater frequency behavioral problems in school ranging from aggressive, demanding, immature, and attention-seeking behaviors to withdrawn, anxious, and over-compliant behaviors” (Zetlin, 2006). These children are victims of abuse and has not had the support needed to develop social skills. They are often embarrassed to raise their hand out of fear of any type of attention. How do these children move from one abusive home to a home that is ill equipped to care for them and still grow into a productive member of society? What are the realities of these children’s lives and what are the perceptions of those around them?
Children are placed in Foster Care for a wide variety of reasons that range from neglect, to abuse, and even to extortion. No child should ever have to grow up in an environment that is not nurturing, caring, and educational, but they do. We perceive the Foster Care System to be a safety zone for these children. Our foster care system is supposed to provide safe homes, loving caregivers, stable education, and reliable health care. Foster care is supposed to provide all the necessities that were lacking in the home they were previously taken from. These are perceptions that just do not coincide with reality. In many cases, foster parents do not have resources necessary to care for these children, the educators do not have the necessary information to educate them, and the system itself does not have the funding necessary to provide them with the skills to become productive citizens once they are adults. The realities of children in foster care need to change.
Children of foster care usually have not had a stable educational background when they enter the system. They usually have a variety of health problems, social problems, as well as educational problems. Our first instinct is to find a safe home for the child, address the health problems, and then to submerge the child into an environment that is as close to “normal” as possible. Once enrolled in school, the child is then placed in a classroom that has already begun its year, so the child is behind. The teacher and the students are all unknown to the child, so the child tends to be withdrawn, unsociable, and disinterested. The teacher is unaware of the child’s history, because their records have not yet been received by the school. The homework assigned by the teacher, is way beyond the abilities of the child. The child does not turn in any of the work he has attempted, because of embarrassment. The child also finds it very hard to concentrate given all the disruptions in his life, all the court hearings, and the uncomfortable questions asked by his new foster parents. Now the teacher begins to perceive the child as difficult and has begun to feel that the child is unreachable.
A child viewed as lazy, detached, uncooperative may just be scared, lonely, embarrassed. This child needs someone to guide them and to believe in them. “Unfortunately, for many foster children, the experiences they have endured in their biological families and those they encounter in the foster care system are so overwhelming that failure in school seems inconsequential by comparison” (Noble, 1997). The child’s school records have been reported as being lost, due to so many transfers. Because of this, the child has no way of being properly placed in an appropriate classroom. The teacher is unaware that the child has never been to school on a regular basis and has not had the opportunity to learn how to interact and form attachments with other children. The child also does not know any of the answers to the questions asked by the teacher, so they act out. They “would rather be “bad” than “dumb” (Noble, 1997). Now the child has been “labeled”, not only by the teacher, but by his peers as well. In an age of instant knowledge and advancing technology, we still cannot seem to get organized. If only the child’s records had been able to proceed the child’s first day, the child may have been able to learn and later attend college.
The child’s perception of foster care quickly changes also. A child that is taken out of an unsafe environment may be given the food he so desperately wanted, the clean clothes that he desperately needed, and the comfortable bed that he had never been given, but is he given the support that is necessary for his growth? Children in foster care are moved on average of three times during their stay. This move brings them new foster parents, a new school and a new teacher. The process then begins all over again. Educational and emotional assessments will need to be performed, again. Bonds that were just beginning to be formed are now broken, so it is now harder to form new ones. Emotional attachments are difficult for the child due to his history, but they even more difficult due to his mobile life. The child forms a pattern that everything is temporary. If only the foster home had prepared for the child before hand, the child’s social abilities could have been nurtured and the child could have been involved in his life.
Society sees children as being adults at the age of eighteen. “About 20,000 young people “age out” of the foster care system annually in the United States” (Missouri, 2007). A child who has gone through the foster care system is likely to see becoming eighteen as a time when they can finally make their own decisions instead of having to live with the decisions of so many others. Foster care is a life of change and adulthood is a time when the child is in control of their life. The reality is that a foster child is more likely to end up homeless, in poverty or in prison. “It’s estimated about half of the foster children … who age out become homeless at some point. Less than half have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and about 80 percent of young women who age out become pregnant before 21” (Missouri, 2007). The system has failed to provide the education necessary in today’s world. Most of these children lack the skills to live independently. They have no illusions of going to college, they do not know how to live on a budget, and they do have the social skills to acquire and maintain steady employment. For these reasons, approximately 10% of children of foster care will find themselves in prison (Craft, 2007). If only society had provided these children with the emotional and educational support they so desperately needed, they may have been very productive members of society.
There are many new proposals in America today to deal with these problems. One important component is to appoint one person that is responsible for the educational growth of the child (Gerber, 2005). This person will follow the child to each school, each teacher, each foster home, and each level of education. No matter where the child is transferred, this one person will always hold the child’s educational records and assessments. The educational contact will also work with the school and teacher prior to the child’s transfer. They will work along side the social worker, will help to educate the foster parent on the history and needs of the child, and will help to provide the stable educational support the every child requires.
Noble suggests several, systematic steps the teacher can take to encourage the child’s success, despite the challenges. Her suggestions encourage the teacher to set reasonable expectations, support the child educationally as well as emotionally, to get the foster family involve, be actively aware of the child’s sensitivities, and to make the child feel secure to explore, ask questions and ask for help (1997). Teachers have significant impacts on their students, and can have a greater impact on foster children. “Children in foster care are one of the most educationally vulnerable populations in our schools” (Zetlin,2006). With these tools, teachers can significantly change the statistics and show them the path to success.
The “No Child Left Behind” has even gone some recent reforms that take the realities of children in Foster Care into account. With this type of growth in the Foster Care System, children may be able to curb the trends that have overwhelmed them. With knowledge, understanding, stability, and organization we have the ability to make our positive perceptions of Foster Care a reality. Foster care can be the “Saving Grace” it should be.
- Foster children are moved on average three times while they are in foster care. For some, they are moved up to six times. (Noble, 1997)
- Foster Care children are three times higher to be placed in special education. (Gerber, 2005)
- 54% of children in Foster Care graduate from High School. (Craft, 2007)
- 10% of Foster Care children will enter prison. (Craft, 2007)
- 90% of children in Foster Care have health problems. (Zetlin, 2004)
- Children’s records take anywhere from 3 weeks to 8 months to be transferred. Among these, many are incomplete or are inaccurate. (Zetlin, 2004)
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- Craft, Carrie. (April 24, 2007). No Child Left Behind Reforms to Aid Foster Children.
- Your Guide to Adoption/Foster Care. About.com: Adoption/Foster Care. Retrieved September 20, 2007, from http://adoption.about.com
- Gerber, J M, & Dicker, S. (Winter 2005). Children adrift: addressing the educational needs of New York's foster children. Albany Law Review, 69, 1. p.1(74). Retrieved September 22, 2007, from Academic OneFile via Gale:http://find.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/itx/start.do?prodId=AONE
- Missouri program helps foster children aging out of the system. [Internet] The Canadian Press. 2007 Sept 09. Retrieved September 20, 2007, from http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5gie0_2XphO4plZ2fRUIPadOAeLBw
- Noble, L. S. (April 1997). The face of foster care. Educational Leadership, 54, n7. p.26(3). Retrieved September 22, 2007, from Academic OneFile via Gale:http://find.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/itx/start.do?prodId=AONE
- Zetlin, A., Weinberg, L., & Luderer, J. W. (Wntr 2004). Problems and solutions to improving education services for children in foster care. Preventing School Failure, 48, 2. p.31(6). Retrieved September 22, 2007, from Academic OneFile via Gale:http://find.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/itx/start.do?prodId=AONE
- Zetlin, A G, Weinberg, L A, & Shea, N M (May 2006). Improving educational prospects for youth in foster care: the education liaison model. Intervention in School & Clinic, 41, 5. p.267(6). Retrieved September 22, 2007, from Academic OneFile via Gale:http://find.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/itx/start.do?prodId=AONE