By reducing instability at school and home, a new Lucas County initiative aims to improve the academic performance of children in foster care.
A two-year, $500,000 grant to the Lucas County Juvenile Court from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families will fund that initiative. The court, Lucas County Children Services, Toledo Public Schools, and the Education Service Center of Lake Erie West will collaborate on the "Pathways to Success Initiative," which is funded by the grant.
The partners will try to allow children in foster care to remain at their original neighborhood school and will provide transportation for those students, in an attempt to reduce the school mobility rate for children in foster care. They will also work to reduce the number of families that foster children move between by expanding court mediation services.
The initiative targets foster children between the ages of 10 and 17, but is not limited to those ages. Among goals of the program, Judge Denise Navarre Cubbon said, would be to increase the graduation rate of foster children by 10 percent, reduce their out of school suspensions by five percent, reduce the involvement of foster children in the juvenile justice system by five percent, and decrease foster family disruptions by 10 percent.
Children Services Director Dean Sparks said his department has about 550 children in foster care, and about 380 are enrolled in TPS. A study his department recently conducted showed the average foster child entered school performing two years below grade level.
He said that improving services for foster children would not just help them, but dramatically improve the district's academic performance.
"For all foster kids, education is the key," Mr. Sparks said.
Assistant Superintendent of TPS Romules Durant, who will take over as superintendent this summer, said it was important for various agencies that work with school age children to work together and combine resources. He said schools, social services, and court systems couldn't operate as if they were individual silos.
"Ultimately," he said, "we are here to serve the same children."
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.