The start of a new school year is an exciting and scary time for all children. However, for children living in foster care, the start of a new school year can be overwhelming.

First, foster youth move frequently, which puts them at least six months academically behind their peers. The frequent moves also mean that many foster youth are beginning the year in a new school, without the safety network of returning friends, familiar teachers or an understanding of the school culture.

In addition, these students face enormous personal emotional challenges. First, is the abuse or neglect that put them in care, but there is also the embarrassment of being in foster care, being separated from siblings and parents and living in a strange home. All of these factors weigh heavily on these young people. It is imperative that teachers, administrators, foster parents and all of those in the foster youth’s life to pay special attention to how these students assimilate into the classroom and watch for any bullying or shaming that may occur. Any additional emotional trauma would devastate an already fragile situation.

Research shows that youth living in foster care are more likely to drop out of high school and are least likely to attend college. An organized effort to safeguard a smooth school transition for these youth is the key to a positive educational experience that can offset some of the damage done by the abuse, neglect and the barriers that these youth experience. Additionally, and most importantly, an improved educational experience will enhance the overall wellbeing of each student and provide a pathway to self-sufficiency and a successful adulthood.

Foster children with an assigned CASA have the opportunity to have another pair of eyes and ears looking out for best interests.  In a school setting, this is especially vital where foster children are continuously moved from school to school, which result in academic and social delays.  The CASA communicates directly with teachers and guidance staff to ensure that the child is getting all of the services and support that he/she is entitled to in order to succeed in school.

Ellen Davis

Executive Director

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Bergen County

(201) 336-7520

ellendavis@bergencasa.org

www.bergencasa.org

 

About Bergen County CASA

Trained CASA volunteers speak in family court on behalf of abused and neglected children in the foster care system and are dedicated to ensuring these children are placed in safe permanent homes as quickly as possible. In Bergen County, over 485 children live in foster care annually. Last fiscal year, CASA served 219 abused and neglected children with over 100 CASA volunteers and helped place 150 children in permanent homes. For more information about CASA visit www.bergencasa.org