FosterEd’s first California demonstration site, FosterEd Santa Cruz County, involved a remarkable level of support and collaboration among public agencies and community-based organizations, which ultimately led to the project’s successful continuation through public agency funding.
FosterEd Santa Cruz County started as an initiative of the National Center for Youth Law, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, Santa Cruz County Family and Children’s Services, Children’s Mental Health, CASA of Santa Cruz County, and the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Cruz, Juvenile Division. The Santa Cruz demonstration site focused on improving the educational outcomes of children and youth in foster care by ensuring that every child served is supported by an educational champion and strengthened by an education team.
From the initial local leadership team meeting in 2011, to the project’s launch in January 2013, and through its successful transfer to public agency control in 2015, local partners were committed to the project’s success. Partner agencies demonstrated a remarkable willingness to engage in innovative practices to serve students in foster care, as demonstrated by an MOU that was signed by each agency partner and school district in the county. These practices remain in place today.
Dr. Jennifer Laird of RTI International, the project’s external evaluator, followed the program’s implementation and released annual reports on its progress. The third and final report, covering the entire duration of the pilot project, found that a number of factors contributed to the sustainability and successful transition of the pilot, including an early agreed-upon vision and focused effort beginning during Year 1 of the pilot, strategic evolution of the program, highly functional partnerships, and evidence of the program’s effectiveness in improving educational outcomes. The evaluation found that students served by the FosterEd pilot program achieved improvements in their school attendance rates and grade point averages (GPA). Approximately three fourths of students who entered the program with low attendance achieved gains in their attendance during their participation, and the percentage of students earning a GPA of 3.0 or higher more than doubled after joining FosterEd. The evaluation also examined the number and types of educational goals that education teams set and work towards.
With the pilot complete, the program continues to operate through the County Office of Education, ensuring that many more students receive opportunities and support that will help them succeed.