More than 437,000 youth are in the U.S. foster system. Foster youth are significantly more likely to experience unplanned school changes: in California, foster youth lose four to six months’ worth of learning time with every transfer. Compared to a statewide graduation rate of 85%, foster youth have a 56% graduation rate. They are more likely to be enrolled in the lowest-performing schools, have the lowest participation rate in state testing, and experience suspensions at five times the rate of the rest of California’s students. (HHS, 2019); (CDE, 2019).
The Foster Education Project at Berkeley Law serves foster youth in the Bay Area. We pair each member with a foster student in need of an educational advocate. Law students become the legal educational rights holders, ensuring the child receives an appropriate school placement, representation in disciplinary proceedings, any services for disabilities or special needs, and the support needed to succeed. Members may serve as a point of contact for social workers, teachers, attorneys, and other stakeholders in the child’s life, such as group home staff. Members are expected to actively evaluate their student’s school placement, engage with teachers, administrators, and school counselors, and advocate for the needs of the child. Students may also produce education timelines based on foster student records and develop know-your-rights graduation requirement presentations.
We anticipate law students will be able to serve as education rights holders in person for Fall 2021. FosterEd trainings and meetings will likely take place in person during the lunch hour, but may be held over Zoom in the evenings if it makes sense to do so. A year-long commitment is required, however three-year membership is highly encouraged for consistent representation of our foster youth.
Our SLP members can expect to learn about child welfare, education, and disability law, and to work with established attorneys in the field who will serve as mentors. Members get to practice a direct service approach to the law, utilizing communication, negotiation, and advocacy skills to improve educational opportunities in a child’s life.
- Children’s Bureau. AFCARS Report #26 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019).
- Data Reporting Office. Foster Youth in California Schools (California Department of Education, 2019).
Time Commitment: Variable based on child’s needs (20-40 hours/semester).
For more information, please contact the student leaders at FosterEd@law.berkeley.edu.