The federal Every Student Succeeds Act was initially rolled out in 2016, and requires school districts to have Foster Care Liaisons to support students K-12 in/from foster care.
Unfortunately, too few foster youth in the state of Ohio are proactively informed about who the Foster Care Liaison is in their district. This leads to missed opportunities to promote to Ohio’s foster youth and to seek to positively impact their educational outcomes.
Although it is considered “Best Practice” for District Foster Care Liaisons to be proactive and make contact with foster youth in their district, every Ohio school district differs in their approach. These positions exist on paper, but not consistently in practice. Training is not mandatory.
During the 2022 October statewide OHIO YAB meeting, none of the participating youth had ever heard of or benefited from this resource.
The OHIO YAB has since reached out to Senator Teresa Fedor, who now serves on Ohio’s State Board of Education, State Superintendent Stephanie Siddons of the Ohio Board of Education and her Chief of Staff Jessica Voltolini.
On Monday, January 30, 2023, the OHIO YAB held a meeting with Kara Wente and Lillian Clossman of ODJFS and Wendy Grove and Jessica Horowitz-Moore of the Ohio Department of Education. OHIO YAB Youth Ambassadors shared a detailed presentation. Their recommendations included that training be made mandatory and that proactive outreach by district foster care liaisons be consistently prioritized.
On Monday, March 13, 2023, a follow-up meeting was held with Valerie Kunze, Betsy Hauck, and Lucy Gobble. The Ohio Department of Education was invited to attend the April OHIO YAB statewide quarterly meeting, to continue to invite youth insights. Jermaine Ferguson suggested utilizing student wellness grant funds to establish foster care liaisons at individual schools, to increase attentiveness to student needs.
House Bill 33 contains provisions to establish a full-time School Foster Care Liaison within the Ohio Department of Education. This individual could reach out to each of Ohio’s 611 individual school districts to ensure that their District Foster Care Liaisons are well-trained and treat their position as a priority. The bill also proposes creating a Foster Youth Higher Educational Financial Assistance program to support the post-secondary success of students with a foster care history.
In May 2023, the Ohio Department of Education will be highlighting the educational needs of foster youth in grades K-12. Do you have an example of an educator who made a positive difference in your life? Please submit it via this link.