Education Supports Benefits Kansas Students in Foster Care

May and June are typically the graduation months, when families gather to celebrate the academic achievements of children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Whether they’re graduating from high school, college, or trade school, it’s a festive, unifying occasion.

Unfortunately, for many young people in the child welfare system, graduation alongside their peers isn’t in the cards. According to Foster Youth of America, about half of kids in foster care graduate from high school. Less than three percent graduate from a four-year college, and more than 40 percent of school-aged children in foster care experience educational challenges. High school dropout rates are three times higher for foster youth than other low-income children.

Yet, we have heartening news from the Sunflower State. The Kansas Department for Children and Families’ annual Foster Care Report Card noted earlier this year that graduation rates for Kansas youth in foster care rose in 2023, citing education supports and partnerships between state agencies and local school districts.

Saint Francis Ministries is one of the providers working closely with school districts to raise those graduation rates.

According to the DCF statement, graduation rates for children in foster care increased by 5.3 percent during the 2022-23 school year.

“I credit these encouraging numbers to our focus on cooperation, coordination, and communication between DCF, the Department of Education, Case Management Providers (CMP) education coordinators and local school districts,” DCF Secretary Laura Howard said. “The partnership between groups ensures that the students have access to educational supports and services.”

At Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 students in foster care, as well as all students with mental health concerns, had access to two mental health liaisons to help families access mental health supports. The liaisons worked in close partnership with Saint Francis Ministries Education Coordinators to support students by creating plans for a supportive school environment. Saint Francis Ministries is the CMP in the Geary County area.

“We are seeing that the partnerships not only support students in foster care, but also provide tools within communities to support all students and help avoid a need for foster care through both large and small group interventions,” Secretary Howard added.

The report provided details on chronic absenteeism, attendance and dropout rates, and enrollment in at-risk preschool programs or special education services. During the 2022-23 school year, the following was noted for students in foster care:

  • Graduation rates for children in care increased by 5.3 percent.
  • Chronic absenteeism decreased by 3.9 percent.
  • Attendance rates increased to 89.1 percent.
  • Dropout rates decreased slightly.
  • An increased number of students in care are enrolled in at-risk preschool programs or special education services – 82.1 to 84.4 percent.

Although the DCF announcement doesn’t offer numbers by provider, last year 74 youth in the West Region and 47 youth in the Wichita Region graduated from high school. Likewise, in other school districts, Saint Francis Ministries and educators have collaborated to ensure that students in foster care achieve academic success.

As part of the District Leadership Team for USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden and USD 428 Great Bend, Education Coordinator Stephanie Pfannenstiel works closely with district mental health liaisons in USD 383 to help families access mental health services and provide trauma-responsive support planning.

“The mental health liaisons have partnered with Saint Francis Education Coordinators to share knowledge of past traumas and mental health issues to make a more purposeful plan for a supportive school environment,” said Pfannenstiel. “In USD 428, we meet monthly with the local community mental health center, juvenile services, and child welfare to discuss supports for students and families who are struggling. All Elementary schools have begun adding more social emotional learning groups overseen by the community mental health center and high school counselors are working on adding access to similar tools for their students and staff.”

This kind of cooperation between educators and Saint Francis Ministries plays a significant part in the increased graduation rates reported by the State of Kansas.

Picture of Shane Schneider
Shane Schneider

Shane is the Editorial Content Manager for the Marketing and Communications Department at Saint Francis Ministries.

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