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.
The Foster Education Project at Berkeley Law pairs law students with local foster youth in need of an educational advocate. Law students become the legal educational rights holders for a single child, 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. Law students may also have opportunities to observe hearings in youth dependency court.
Law students will be able to serve as education rights holders remotely for Fall 2020. All SLP trainings will be conducted via Zoom, and meetings with foster students and stakeholders will be via phone or web conferencing. Additionally, for students not immediately paired with a foster student this semester, alternative project opportunities may include producing education timelines based on foster student records and developing know-your-rights graduation requirement presentations.
Law students can expect to learn about education and disability law, and to work with established attorneys in the field that will serve as mentors. Members get to practice a direct service approach to the law, utilizing communication, negotiation, and advocacy skills to make a real difference in a young child’s life.
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.
- 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).