Youth In Foster Care Struggle To Keep Up In School, Study Finds


Youth In Foster Care Struggle To Keep Up In School, Study Finds

INDIANAPOLIS– Joshua Christian attended four different high schools while in the foster care system and none of the credits transferred from one school to the next, leaving him surprised that he was able to graduate on time.

Christian, 21, of Indianapolis, was at the Indiana Statehouse Tuesday as results of Indiana’s first annual report on foster youth educational outcomes was discussed at a media event. Those attending, including lawmakers and foster care advocates, urged legislators and policymakers to create a comprehensive state-level plan to support foster children in K-12 schools.

“Most young people are really behind their education and they really deserve a chance at having that shot of a successful life,” Christian, a member of the Indiana Youth Advisory Board, said after the event.

Nearly 65 percent of Indiana students in foster care graduate high school, compared to 88.3 percent of their peers, according to the report. Also, nearly 21 percent of Indiana students in foster care receive a graduation waiver compared to 8.3 percent of their peers.

“Young people like me, they are probably struggling with the idea of security,” Christian said. “When you’re in foster care, you don’t know where you’re going to be in two months, you don’t know where you’re going to be in three months, you’re in survivor mode.”

Advocates say lawmakers should study what additional resources are needed to help foster children. They also argued for a tax credit program that would support nonprofits, provide family preservation services, and deliver support to foster children throughout Indiana.

Advocates point out to legislatures that all foster care youth should have the same opportunities and abilities to receive their education as all Hoosier children have.

Brent Kent, CEO of Indiana Connected by 25, stressed to those at the event that youth in foster care have serious education needs that must be recognized and addressed.

“Our goal is to support their success and by age 25, they are housed, employed, financially stable and have completed some workforce or college,” Kent said. “In our work, one of the biggest hurdles to their successful transition to adulthood is the lack of equality K-12 education.”

Last year, the non-profit organization started collecting data for the first time on the education outcomes for foster children throughout Indiana.

Other Data From The Report:

  • One in five can be homeless within two years of leaving the state’s custody;
  • 50 percent are unemployed at age 24;
  • Only 3 percent will obtain a college degree;
  • Indiana has more children in the states foster care system than any surrounding state, even those with twice the population;
  • 21 percent of Indiana students in foster care are suspended each year compared to 8.9 percent of their peers.
  • Black students in foster care are expelled at almost four times the rate of their peers and only 3.2 percent pass the 10th grade math ISTEP.

Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, said the data show that the state doesn’t even know where all the foster children are located.

“Out of the 17,000 students that we know are foster kids, the department can only locate about half of those, so we don’t know exactly how to provide those services,” Behning said.

Rep. Dale DeVon, R-Granger, pointed out that sometimes some of the youth commit crimes just to get locked up because jail is better than their home life.

“You truly have to become your own self-advocate to be successful,” Christian said. “The unknown is what is really scary.”

FOOTNOTE:  Bryan Wells is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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