Thursday, August 5, 2021 - The back-to-school season can bring excitement for young people as they prepare to see their classmates again, meet new teachers and students, and explore new subjects. But for youth in foster care, starting a new school year can feel scary and uncertain. They can often feel as if the odds are stacked against them when it comes to their educational success.
Children enter foster care not because of any fault of their own, but because their families are in crisis. Once they’re in foster care, they tend to face uncertainty and instability - moving from placement to placement, caseworker to caseworker and community to community. Too often, switching placements also means switching schools.
“Having to change schools can cause youth in foster care to lose not only academic progress, but also connections with friends and mentors. Couple this with the fact that these youth are grappling with different types of trauma that can influence their learning and behavior, and it’s no wonder they tend to have lower educational outcomes than their peers,” said Suzanne Hughes, Executive Director of CASA for Children.
What’s more, the pandemic has taken an emotional, physical, and academic toll - for some young people this will be the first time they come back to school in person in more than a year, and all students, in foster care or otherwise, will be facing learning losses.
“How can we help children and youth in foster care beat the odds and succeed? With CASA volunteers,” Hughes said.
CASA volunteers, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, are everyday people from all walks of life who are recruited and specially trained to advocate for children in foster care and provide a consistent, reliable adult presence for them during a difficult time in their life. They are appointed by a judge to one child or sibling group to advocate for their best interest in court, in school, and in other settings. They get to know the child and everyone involved in their life, such as their parents and other family members, foster parents, therapists, caseworkers and teachers.
Specifically, CASA volunteers can advocate for children’s education by helping teachers, coaches, counselors and school administrators understand the child’s foster care status and the unique challenges they face as a result. They can also advocate for placement and school stability for the children they serve, because it is best for them to stay in their school of origin whenever possible. In cases where a school change is inevitable, CASA volunteers can help ensure a seamless transfer between schools and lessen the negative impact of the school move on the child.
“Students in foster care face unique challenges, but they deserve every opportunity to thrive just like their classmates,” said Hughes. “Our CASA volunteers can help by providing a consistent presence, communicating with their teachers about their situation, advocating for needed services and making sure the children they serve are set up to succeed.”
In our community, there are hundreds of children in the child welfare system. CASA serves many of these children, but there are still children without a volunteer, waiting for someone to advocate for them.
“CASA urgently needs more volunteers, especially now that the back-to-school season has begun” said Jenny Crosby, Training and Outreach Coordinator at CASA. “Every child in foster care should have an advocate who is committed to helping them be successful - committed to giving them a bigger chance at a brighter future.”
Become a CASA volunteer and advocate for a child who needs you. Take advantage of CASA for Children’s next training beginning August 23rd. For more information or to learn how to get involved, visit www.casaok.org or call Jenny Crosby at 918-686-8199.
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