It’s National Foster Care Month and Oakland’s numbers are crying out for action. We can do better, we need to do different, and this month and ongoing I will be shining a light on these children, our children.
First let’s look at the facts—which are dismal—you can see the charts below from Oakland Unified. But let’s review. First, that “no data” in A-G completion, means that no foster students graduated even eligible to apply to UC or CSU. There are 357 foster kids and not a single one in OUSD qualified. More than a fifth (22.7%) are chronically absent, there is a mere 33.3% cohort graduation rate and less than 8% are proficient in math or reading.
These are children that face real challenges, and tend to have less supports, there ain’t no trust fund waiting for them—without academic skills, they will face an ongoing uphill battle.
And there is something more tragic about this, they are our kids, by an accident of birth born in their circumstances. And they do rely on us, and “the system.” And there ain’t no love in the system, so it’s really up to us.
Many of you know that I worked in group homes for years and have continued to work with foster kids in the East Bay. And these dismal numbers don’t even begin to reflect the even more dismal circumstances and treatment these children get.
While they have a host of “rights”, those are really only rhetoric without someone to enforce them. And even, when, I a lawyer, intervene, I still get the run around. Kids are suspended when they shouldn’t be, they aren’t allowed back to school when they should be, they are overmedicated, and when they don’t like the meds effects and don’t want to take them they are punished. And again, I know this is illegal but one child I work with was told he couldn’t come to school unless he took his meds.
They also have the “right” to stay at their school. And to have the District pay for transportation, but many kids have a half dozen or more different school placements. Always being the new kid, retaking the same classes, having a jigsaw puzzle transcript that doesn’t add up to or even show a path to graduation, much less a career.
We have to do different
Kids need advocates, they need to learn to self-advocate, and they need support that is not tied to ever changing schools. So, my new idea. Develop an out of school advisory and leadership development model that helps students complete high school and have a college and career pathway, this would be alongside a student support process that would have lawyers, law students, and social work students, coordinating and advocating for kids’ rights.
We (my not for profit- Great School Choices) have started conversations with partners—Big Picture Learning, on the advisory model, Alameda CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Berkeley Law School, Cal State East Bay, among others. We have no money, just a need and an idea.
These are our kids. And their results, and the lives we have given them say more about us a society than them as individuals. When you look at the numbers—we have failed them—we have failed.
We need to break this cycle, anyone else want to join the conversation on how to help.
FOSTER YOUTH STATISTICS- foster students in gray