Behning: Students in foster care deserve more

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Thursday, April 18, 2019 2:30 pm

Across the state, more children are being placed in temporary homes and spending part of their childhood in foster care. The trauma experienced during this chaotic and confusing time impacts young Hoosiers in many ways. As part of ongoing efforts to improve the outcomes for kids in the foster care system, we are looking for ways to help them succeed in school. Thanks to a recent report, we now have a better understanding of the challenges foster care students face, and how we can better meet their needs.

This first-of-its-kind report stems from a law I co-authored last year. After hearing from students, foster parents and educators about these young Hoosiers’ struggles, we felt compelled to look deeper into how foster children perform in school.

We found only 64% of students in foster care will graduate from high school, which is more than 20% lower than the state average. In fact, 1 in 5 foster youth do not meet the graduation requirements to receive a diploma. They are at higher risk of falling behind their peers in reading and math, and are three times as likely to be expelled. Due to unstable home lives, switching schools, missing class to attend court hearings and trauma experienced from being removed from their families, these students often bear a heavy burden that impacts them in the classroom.

My wife and I adopted our daughter when she was six years old, and we know all too well the struggles these vulnerable students can experience. This report shines a light on some significant shortfalls within our education system. With up to 20,000 school-aged children in the foster care system, more must be done to support vulnerable youth. With a clearer picture of the academic challenges these students face, we can now work together to provide the resources they need. The Indiana Department of Education is using this report to develop a remediation plan to provide additional support and help foster kids succeed. Final details of this proposal should be announced this summer, and it is expected to be implemented at the start of the 2019-2020 school year. In the meantime, I intend to ask the Legislative Council to assign this issue to a summer study committee, so the General Assembly can look further into this report and find additional ways to help our kids.

Regardless of home life or family dynamic, every child deserves an opportunity to succeed inside and outside the classroom. I plan to stay engaged in these discussions to help focus our efforts and ensure no child falls through the cracks at school. If you are involved in the foster care system and need support or know someone who does, there are several resources available to help children, parents and young adults. Visit childrensbureau.org or fostersuccess.org to learn more. This is an issue near to my heart, and if I am able to help in any way, please contact me at 317-232-9648 or h91@iga.in.gov

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents House District 91,

which includes portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.

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