“Improving Educational Outcomes for Foster Children in Marion County”
Children and youth in foster care face a unique set of educational challenges, including frequent school transfers, a lack of communication between public schools and child welfare agencies, and a lack of stable academic support and guidance. FosterEd is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the academic outcomes of foster children by ensuring they are adequately supported by educational champions and strengthened by education teams. Jesse Hahnel, FosterEd’s founder and Executive Director, witnessed how on-the-ground stakeholders such as teachers, school guidance counselors, foster care agency social workers, foster parents, and court staff worked hard to coordinate students’ day-to-day activities but often operated in isolation from one another. FosterEd sought to address the challenges that foster children face by enhancing coordination among these individuals and agencies. Working with Sundaram LLC, FosterEd developed an educational case management system that served as a mechanism for stakeholders to track the educational strengths and needs of individual foster children. The partners involved agreed that sharing information about student performance and educational barriers would enhance understanding among the professionals working with the children and reduce duplication of services. The case management system also allowed stakeholders to review student data longitudinally and pinpoint what kind of support individual students needed. The system also allowed the program to be effectively managed by tracking student demographics and educational attainment, which helped organizations to allocate staff resources and train staff appropriately. Critically, the web interface brought these agencies and institutions into greater communication with each other and ensured collective ownership of students’ educational plans.