Is your state supporting students in foster care?
When Karina Melendez missed multiple days of school during the winter of her sophomore year, it wasn’t because she was willfully truant or lazy. The student, who usually got straight As, had been placed in the foster care system and was balancing class at her Bronx public high school with court appointments, meetings with lawyers and social workers, and the emotional shock of uprooting her life.
Melendez’s grades dropped during that time, but she was eventually able to bring them back up, graduate on time, and head to Columbia University — despite remaining in foster care through the rest of high school. Now 25 years old, Melendez credits that to the stability she found in school and the support of teachers who knew what she was going through.
But not every student who enters the foster care system receives that kind of support. Unlike Melendez, many change schools, falling months behind academically. These students are more likely to be expelled and less likely to earn a college degree. District and school leaders don’t always know who is in foster care, leaving students to struggle with trauma, mental health issues, and missed classes on their own. Historically, little data has existed to show how students in foster care perform in each district or state.